Test-Taking Strategies

Test taking can be very anxiety producing for students.  Luckily there are several strategies that can help you better prepare and feel more comfortable the day of the test.

Preparation.  In past posts, we have highlighted the importance of planning your time, note-taking, reading, and studying.  We cannot overstate the importance of preparation enough.  Frequent review of material throughout the semester, not just immediately before the exam, will help you truly master the material and feel more confident in your ability to do well.

Scheduling.  Besides coming up with a plan to manage your time throughout the semester (link), you will also want to think about your schedule the day of the test.  It is best not to schedule your study time right before the exam; all of your studying should be happening before the day of the test.  Knowing that everything is already done should relieve stress.  You won’t feel rushed getting to class, and if something were to go wrong, you won’t lose valuable study time.  You also should avoid scheduling anything immediately after a test.  This way, you will not be preoccupied with the time and whether or not you will be late to your next appointment, and can completely focus on the task at hand.

Previewing.  When you begin the exam, you should first preview the test so that you can come up with the best strategy for that specific exam.  Knowing how much time you have to complete the exam, how many questions there are, which questions are most time consuming, and which questions are worth the most points can help you come up with the best way to prioritize the questions.

Starting.  Once you have previewed the exam, it is time to begin.  First and foremost, read the instructions carefully.  This is such a vital step of the test-taking process.  Make sure that you understand what is being asked of you by re-reading the instructions and underlining the important components.  Ask the instructor for clarification of anything you might not understand.  Once you start the test, remember that you don’t have to go to in order.  You may want to prioritize questions worth the most points first, and then complete low point items later.  If you come to a question that you don’t know the answer to, skip it and come back to it.  Sometimes completing other questions will give you the information you need or prompt you to remember relevant material.  

Now that you have basic strategies to begin your exam, next week we will talk about specific item types and tips on how to address each one.