General Tips and Test-Taking Strategies
Preparing for Tests
Be rested and comfortable. If you take a test when you are
hungry or tired, you won't perform well.
Know what to expect. Learn ahead of time the kind of test you will be taking, where and when it will be held, and what materials to bring. Arrive on time to avoid last-minute pressure.
Expect some anxiety. Being concerned will help you do your best on a test.
Avoid worried test-takers. Extreme nervousness, called test anxiety, will interfere with your work. Remember, test anxiety is contagious and unproductive.
Reducing Test Anxiety
Keep a positive attitude. Decide to do your best, and don't
blame yourself for what you don't know.
Concentrate on the test.
Don't worry about your ability, the behavior of other people, the number of questions, or even short memory lapses. Pay close attention to one question at a time. This kind of concentration reduces anxiety.
Relax. If you are too nervous to think or read carefully, try to slow down physically. Change your mood by taking several slow, deep breaths. Then start to work.
When You Get Your Test
Put your name on the test paper or answer sheet.
Read the test instructions carefully. Be sure you understand what's expected of you, and ask questions if you don't.
Preview the test, make sure your copy is complete, then plan your time for each part of the test, including a few minutes to look over y our test after you finished it.
Answer the easiest questions first. You'll feel more confident, and you may also find some helpful ideas for the more difficult questions.
Read each test question carefully, no matter what kind of test you are taking.
Before You Turn In Your Test
Fight the urge to leave as soon as you have finished. It's
natural, but it can hurt your grade.
Review the test questions and your answers to them. Make any changes you think are important, but don't change your answers unless you have a good reason to do so.
Review your own performance on the test. If you take a few notes on your test-taking skills, you'll be able to perform better on future tests. Ask yourself:
Did I use my time well?
What was asked that I didn't expect?
How can I predict better for the next test?
What part of the test was most difficult? Why?
Did test questions come more from readings or from lecture material?
What should I do differently in preparing for the next test?
Tips for Essay Tests
Read all the questions through rapidly, jotting down beside
each question any pertinent facts or ideas which occur to you. The best way
to ensure that your answers do not overlap each other is to survey the
entire test before answering any of the questions.
Estimate the time that you will have for each question according to the relative difficulty and importance of all questions.
Then keep track of your time so that you don't spend too much time on any one question.
Answer the easiest questions first and concentrate on answering one question at a time. Getting down to work on something you can handle is the surest way to reduce your test anxiety.
Decide what kind of answer the question requires before you begin writing. Action verbs such as "illustrate", "list", "define", "compare", "trace", "explain", and "identify" require different approaches to answering.
Before you start writing, make a brief, logical outline for your answer to ensure good organization and prevent careless omissions. It's not how much you say but what you say and how well you say it that counts.
Get down to business in your first paragraph and avoid long-winded introductions.
Your aim in answering most essay questions is to get down the maximum amount of point-earning information in the shortest possible time.
Where appropriate, include factual details to support your answer. These impress your instructor by giving evidence that you really know what you are talking about.
Write legible, complete sentences and paragraphs.
Leave space after each question for additional information which may occur to you later.
Re-read your answers -- do they say what you intended? Correct all grammar and spelling errors.
If you run out of time, outline the remaining information.
Tips for Objective or Multiple Choice Tests
Answer all questions in order without skipping or jumping
around. Identify doubtful answers by marking in the margin and recheck these
as time permits after all questions have been answered.
Do not linger too long on any one question. Mark your best guess and move on, returning later if you have sufficient time.
Reread all questions containing negative wording such as "not" or "least". Be especially alert for the use of double or even triple negatives within a sentence, as these must be read very carefully to assure full understanding.
Check for qualifying words such as "all-most-some-none", "always-usually- seldom-never", "best-worst", or "smallest-largest". When you see one of these qualifiers, test for truth by substituting the other members of the series. If your substitution makes a better statement, the question is false; if your substitution does not make a better statement, the question is true.
Watch for modifying or limiting phrases inserted in the true/false questions. Instructors often use inserted names, dates, places or other details to make a statement inaccurate.
Be alert for multiple ideas or concepts within the same true/false statement. All parts of the statement must be true or the entire statement is false.
Be alert for grammatical inconsistencies between the questions stem and the answer choices on multiple-choice questions. A choice is almost always wrong if it and the stem do not make a grammatically correct sentence.
Be cautious about changing your answer to a true-false or multiple-choice questions without a good reason. Your first "guess" is more likely to be correct than are subsequent "guesses", so be sure to have a sound reason for changing our answer.
Apply the same approach to answering both true/false and multiple-choice questions. The same techniques will work equally well for both, since multiple-choice questions are basically true/false questions arranged in groups.
On matching exercises, work with only one column at a time. Match each item in that column against all items in the second column until you find a proper match, marking through matches about which your are certain, so that it will be easier to match out the rest about which you are unsure.
Tips for Problem-solving Tests (Math, Geometry, Physics, etc.)
Write down hard-to-remember formulas, equations, and rules
before you actually begin working on the test problems.
If you are unable to work a problem, go on to the next one and come back to it later if time permits.
Even if you know that your answer is wrong, turn in your work, because you may get part credit for using the right process.
Show all the steps in your work and clearly identify or label your answer so that it can be quickly found.
Whenever possible, recheck all answers in a different way from that employed when you did the work. For example, add down a column of figures when rechecking if you added up the column when you first solved the problem.
Take time to write legibly and make your corrections, if any, as neat as possible. Most instructors react subjectively to the appearance of papers to be graded, so let neatness work for you rather than against you.
Leave ample space between your answers. You may need it for new ideas or additional details when you return later to re-read what you have written.
If you encounter a question that you think you can't answer, leave it to be answered last, but don't leave it unanswered. You may get partial credit for even a poor answer, especially if everyone else also had trouble answering this same question.