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General Test Taking Strategies

Students incorporating these strategies will perform better on any test. For best results, apply these strategies in the following order:

Write Down Everything Your Remember

Before beginning the test, write down easily forgotten information. This includes formulas, equations, dates, names, and vital data. Likewise, write down brief outlines to refer to during essays, margin notes, mnemonic hints, and other key information that could be forgotten under stress. Frequently refer back to margin notes while completing the test.

Read the Directions

Thoroughly read all test instructions. Look for key indicators like except, or, and, most correct, when, etc. Briefly review all the sections, identify if answers can be used multiple times, and pay close attention to each question since some contain multiple correct answers.

Simply complex instructions by breaking them into sections. Underline or circle confusing questions, and return to them after answering easy ones. Follow instructions precisely since some teachers deduct points for not doing so. If permitted, clarify confusing questions with the teacher.

Also take time to determine how questions are scored before starting the test. For most tests, students are not penalized for incorrectly answering questions, but incorrect answers on standardized and other tests can lower the final score. Pay close attention to word problem instructions since most teachers offer partial credit for showing work.

If permitted, bring a calculator, note paper, and other permitted tools to the testing center. Many students make the mistake of rushing through tests without utilizing permitted test taking tools.

Briefly Look Over The Test

Once you’ve read the instructions, briefly review the test to identify question quantity and types, such as essays, multiple choice, etc. Make a mental note of the point values corresponding to each section and categorize each one by difficulty to determine how much time should be spent per section since most tests are timed.

Standardized tests are typically timed. As a result, it’s important to review these tests before starting them since ineffective time management will result in lower scores. If there is no time limit, take your time answering questions.

Put A Plan Together

Once you’ve reviewed the test, create a plan to finish it. Set aside enough time for each question, and do not waver from the plan. When taking tests where penalties apply for skipping questions, manage time wisely. While taking untimed tests, spend the majority of the time working on questions with higher-point values. Once you’ve completed these questions, answer questions with lower-point values.

However, most tests are timed, so focus on simple questions at the beginning to save time for more challenging questions. Don’t spend excessive time on easy questions.

Schedule time to check answers and review for simple errors. Sit near a clock or wear a watch to track time. Use all the allotted time to complete the test.

Read Each Question Carefully

Take time to review sample questions since they might provide insight into how the teacher expects you to answer questions. Work through complex problems by organizing them into shortened sections, and then complete each section separately. Clarify confusing questions with the teacher, and don’t waste time over analyzing questions since most teachers do not purposely try to trick students.

It’s Okay To Make Education Guesses

If you get stumped on a question, underline and return to it later. It’s ineffective to dwell on questions you’re clueless about and spend extra time rereading questions.

When answering confusing multiple choice questions, identify clues that provide answer hints. For example, answers with grammatical errors are more than likely incorrect, so pay attention to verb tenses, subject verb agreement issues, and other problems. If questions are confusingly worded, rephrase questions with simple phrases and words. Likewise, pay close attention to the context of questions to get a better understanding of what the question is asking.

Many multiple choice questions contain two answers that seem correct. When this happens, choose the most obvious option. Make an educated guess if you have no clue which option is correct. There is no harm in guessing when points are not deducted for wrong answers.

Don’t Make Careless Mistakes

Read the instructions for each section again after completing the test to ensure you’ve accurately followed the instructions. Time permitting, briefly review each question to ensure you’re satisfied with your answers and fully answered the questions. You will think more clearly after test-taking anxiety decreases.

If you filled out a scantron sheet, ensure bubbles have been properly filled and every question answered. Double check essay and fill in the blank questions for legibility. Likewise, review each step completed on math problems and recheck calculations. Guess on any blank questions if penalties are not assessed.


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