Tips for Test Taking

Test taking can be stressful! Many times, there are things students can do to help eliminate some of the stress associated with this activity. The following tips are designed to help you reduce stress and experience success on any type of test you take.

Tip #1 - Find out about the test
Ask your instructor about

  • The types of test questions you can expect
  • The number of questions you will have and their point values
  • The amount of time you will have to complete the test
  • How the test will be graded
  • Extra credit opportunities
  • Study hints

Formulate your study strategy according to the length of the test and the types of test questions. It is also a good idea to use practice tests or workbook questions to study from. Be careful, though, not to assume that the same questions on practice tests will be asked again on the official test.

Tip #2 – Study throughout the course 

  • Establish a study plan from the first week of class and stick to it
  • Complete homework and reading assignments as they are given – it all leads to test material

Planning from the beginning creates peace of mind at test time while eliminating the panic and frustration you may feel right before the test. Studying a little every day means that you will not have to study everything the night before the test. Good planning also allows you to make room for study in all of your courses so that you don’t have to neglect anything (See Time Management link).

Tip #3 – Make and take a pre-test
Taking a pre-test before your actual test is the best way to determine how much you really know. Answering questions without the aid of your book or notes can help you identify information you need to review again before testing. Gaining a sense of how much you know before the test reduces stress and gives you confidence on test day. Follow these steps for making and taking a pre-test:

  • Use section headings from your book and notes to write test questions (See Textbook Reading link).
  • Try to write questions in the format you will have on the test (i.e. multiple choice, true/false, matching, fill-in-blank, definitions, short answer, essay).
  • Take your pre-test at least two days before your actual test. This will give you time to review the things you miss (if you miss any at all!).
  • Use a study partner – exchange pre-tests.

Tip #4 – Study with a partner or group
Studying with a partner or group can be very beneficial when you are being tested on a large volume of material. Follow these steps:

  • Study only with people you know and trust. Choose people who have study habits similar to yours.
  • Study with a small group. Three – four people is ideal.
  • Study with a group ONLY after you have all studied on your own first.
  • Study with group members by using informal discussion of test material. The more you verbalize information and put it in your own words, the better you will understand it.
  • Study with the group at least two days before the test instead of the night before. This will give you time to review more on your own. 

Tips for Taking Different Types of Tests
Three Principles for Taking Essay Tests 
Essay questions usually test your knowledge of broad topics rather than detailed material. Essays are graded on how well you organize an answer and how well you speak to the topic.

  • Use exam time well.
    • • Complete the easiest questions first, especially if there are also   objective questions on the test. 
      • Allocate time for each question according to the point value and   how well you know the material. Give less time for questions you   know well and more for questions you need to think about.
      • Wear a watch during the test so you can monitor the amount of   time you spend on each question.
  • Write focused, organized, answers.
    • • Read the questions carefully. Make sure you know what is being   asked. Underlining key words will help.
      • Brainstorm! Write down everything you know about the topic
        of the question. Read your brainstormed list and underline the   most important items. Use those items in your answer.
      • Write a brief outline using the underlined items from your   brainstormed list.
      • Begin your answer by re-writing the question. Follow your outline   as you write, and be sure to include an introduction and   conclusion.
  • Know key task words.

Task words tell you how to write your answer. Knowing the task words helps you focus your essay on what is being asked. You may get points deducted from your answer if you do not write according the to the task word, so be on the lookout! The following are common task words in essay questions:

  • Analyze Evaluate Summarize
  • Compare Explain Trace
  • Contrast Illustrate Discuss
  • Criticize Interpret Relate
  • Define Justify Enumerate/List
  • Describe Outline State
  • Diagram Prove

Three Principles for Taking Multiple-Choice Tests 
Multiple-choice questions test your knowledge of broad topics as well as details. They can also require you to apply knowledge to a situation or to recognize an example of subject matter in a situation.

  • Read the questions for cues that make the answer more apparent.
    • • Choices that use absolute words such as always, never, & only   are often incorrect.
      • Watch for words such as not, except, & but. These words can   significantly change the answer you choose.
  • Answer the questions you are sure of first.
    • • Work quickly through your test the first time, skipping the   questions you need to think about.
      • As you work through the test, look for clues to answers you   weren’t sure of in other questions. Sometimes another question   will trigger your memory.
  • Analyze the question.
    • • After reading the question, try to repeat it in your own words
        so as to be sure of what the question is asking.
      • Read all choices before eliminating wrong answers and choosing
        a correct one. Reading all choices helps you make a better   decision about the right answer.
      • If you have eliminated 2 of 4 choices and have trouble deciding   which of the two that are left to choose, compare the differences   between the two answers. Decide which one provides the BEST   answer, even if both are possible answers.
      • Relate choices back to the question and treat the statement as   though it were a True/False question. This helps in eliminating   wrong choices.

Three Tips for Answering True/False Questions
True/False questions test your knowledge of detail more than general concepts.

  • Make sure every part of the question is correct.
    • • For the statement to be true, everything must be true.
  • Check qualifiers.
    • • Statements with words such as always, never, & only are often   false.
      • Statements with less definite terms such as often & frequently
        are more likely to be true.
  • Look for clues to answers in other test questions.
    • • Sometimes, a question may appear in two different formats
        on the test.

Two Tips for Answering Matching Questions

Matching questions test your knowledge of people, places, dates, events, and vocabulary.

  • Read all terms and definitions before making any matches.
    • • Look for patterns such as terms on left, definitions on right
      • Look for categories of terms and definitions. Are they all people
        or places or definitions, or are they a mixture of different types of   information?
      • Count the terms and definitions. This will tell you whether or not
        all definitions and terms will be matched.
  • Match the terms you definitely know first.