Test Taking Tips and Strategies

Tips and strategies for when you take a test covering how to prepare for a test, strategies for taking the test, and post test tips.

Test Preparation

  • Preparation for your first test should begin on the first day of class; this includes paying attention during class, taking good notes, studying, completing homework assignments and reviewing study materials on a regular basis.
  • Budget your time, make sure you have sufficient time to study so that you are well prepared for the test.
  • Go to review sessions, pay attention to hints that the instructor may give about the test. Take notes and ask questions about items you may be confused about.
  • Ask the instructor to specify the areas that will be emphasized on the test.
  • Make sure you go to the class right before the test; it's another prime time for the instructor to give out more hints or the format of the test.
  • Go over any material from practice tests, HW's, sample problems, review material, the textbook, class notes...
  • Eat before a test. Having food in your stomach will give you energy and help you focus but avoid heavy foods which can make you groggy.
  • Don't try to pull an all nighter. Get at least 3 hours of sleep before the test (normally 8 hours of sleep a night is recommended but if you are short on time, get at least 3 hours so that you'll be well rested enough to focus during the test).
  • Put the main ideas/information/formulas onto a sheet that can be quickly reviewed many times, this makes it easier to retain the key concepts that will be on the test.
  • Try to show up at least 5 minutes before the test will start.
  • Set your alarm and have a backup alarm set as well.
  • Go to the bathroom before walking into the exam room. You don't want to waste anytime worrying about your bodily needs during the test.

The Test

  • Bring at least two pens/pencils with good erasers, a calculator with enough batteries and any other resources that your instructor allows you to.
  • Bring a watch to the test so that you can better pace yourself.
  • Keep a positive attitude throughout the whole test and try to stay relaxed. If you start to feel nervous take a few deep breaths to relax.
  • Keep your eyes on your own paper, you don't want to appear to be cheating and cause unnecessary trouble for yourself.
  • When you first receive your test, do a quick survey of the entire test so that you know how to efficiently budget your time.
  • Do the easiest problems first. Don't stay on a problem that you are stuck on, especially when time is a factor.
  • Do the problems that have the greatest point values first.
  • Pace yourself, don't rush . Read the entire question and pay attention to the details.
  • Ask the instructor for clarification if you don't understand what they are asking for on the test.
  • Write legibly. If the grader can't read what you wrote, they'll most likely mark it wrong.
  • Always read the whole question carefully. Don't make assumptions about what the question might be.
  • If you don't know an answer, skip it. Go on with the rest of the test and come back to it later. Other parts of the test may have some information that will help you out with that question.
  • Don't worry if others finish before you. Focus on the test in front of you.
  • If you have time left when you are finished, look over your test. Make sure that you have answered all the questions. Only change an answer if you misread or misinterpreted the question because the first answer that you put is usually the correct one. Watch out for careless mistakes and proofread your essay and/or short answer questions.
  • Double check to make sure that you put your first and last name on the test.

After the Test
  • When you get your test back look it over and make sure that there are no grading mistakes.
  • Look over the test and make sure that you understand your mistakes. If you don't know the answer to a question, look it up, ask a classmate or ask the teacher.
  • If the teacher reviews the test in class, be sure to take notes on what the teacher wanted for an answer on the questions/problems that you got wrong.
  • If you aren't satisfied with your grade, go to your instructor and see if there's a make-up exam or any extra credit you can do.
  • Save the test as study material for future cumulative tests.
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