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Test Taking

Test Taking

Exams serve a purpose. They serve to motivate students to learn their class material. In addition, they provide professors with information on the effectiveness of their teaching methods.


General Preparation General Strategies  The Essay Test
True/False Tests Multiple Choice Tests Test Anxiety

General Preparation - Prior to Test

  1. Attend class regularly.
  2. Study throughout the semester. Avoid cramming.
  3. Review your notes after each class. Fill in any missed information.
  4. Budet your study time in advance.
  5. Organize your study area.
  6. Minimize distractions.
  7. Study at times when you are most alert.
  8. Use prime time to study your most difficult material.
  9. Take breaks during your study sessions.
  10. Reward yourself for studying efforts.
  11. Find out exactly what is to be covered on the test.
  12. Find out what type of exam will be given (essay, fill-in-the-blank, true/false, multiple choice, matching). Test-taking strategies differ depending upon the type of exam.
  13. Obtain sample tests from your instructors.
  14. Review your textbook by rereading margin notes, chapter summaries, and information that is highlighted.
  15. Review your classnotes.
  16. Prepare study tools such as flash cards, charts, outlines, lists, visual maps, and summary sheets.
  17. Make practice tests. Practice solving similar problems specifically in math, science, and technical areas.
  18. Use recitation (speaking aloud) to reinforce learning.
  19. Study in groups if you find this helpful.
  20. Go to bed at a reasonable time the night before the test. Avoid studying all night.
  21. Overlearn the material. The key is to be over prepared. Overlearning the material ensures that you really know and understand the information.
  22. Be positive. Visualize yourself doing well on the exam.

General Strategies

  1. Arrive a few minutes early to the examination room so that you won't start the exam feeling rushed.
  2. Read the exam directions thoroughly.
  3. After putting your name on the exam turn it over and unload on the back of the exam. Jot down any keywords, concepts, and ideas that are in your mind which you wish to get down on paper. Perhaps you feel shaky about this information or perhaps you only recently studied the information and want to get it down on paper while it is still fresh in your mind. Unloading or dumping relieves anxiety and prevents forgetting.
  4. Budget the time you have to take the test. Know how many minutes you have and how many questions there are. Know if different questions have different point values and concentrate on those questions with the greatest point value.
  5. Don't get bogged down on any one question.
  6. Answer the easiest questions first. If you are dealing with a difficult question, skip it, move on to the next question, and go back to it at the end of the exam. You may find the answer or a clue to the answer to a difficult question later on in the exam.
  7. If marking answers on an answer sheet, be sure your answers correspond to the correct numbers on the answer sheet.
  8. Answer all of the questions unless points are deducted for incorrect answers.
  9. If you begin to feel anxious, stop for a moment and try deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualization.
  10. Check your answers carefully.


The Essay Test

  1. When preparing, look for themes in your readings and notes.
  2. Anticipate questions that bring together the assigned material.
  3. With your questions in mind, review your texts and notes. Organize answers to your questions.
  4. Begin the test by reading all the questions before writing anything. If you have a choice, select the question for which you are best prepared.
  5. Be prepared to express your own opinion and support it with evidence.
  6. Be sure to answer the question. Pay attention to the key directional words.
  7. Before writing out your essay, spend a few moments organizing your ideas.
  8. Do a scratch outline before you begin writing.
  9. Begin with a strong opening sentence that repeats the question.
  10. State your ideas explicitly. Be concise.
  11. Use supporting evidence.
  12. End with a summary.


True/False Tests

  1. Read directions thoroughly and questions carefully.
  2. If stuck on a question skip it, move on to the next question, and go back to it at the end of the exam. Later questions may bring to mind the answer to an earlier question.
  3. If marking answers on an answer sheet make sure that the answer you are marking goes next to the correct number.
  4. A statement is true if every part of the statement is true.
  5. A statement is false if any part of the statement is false. One word can turn a true statement into a false statement.
  6. Look for absolute and qualifying words.

    Absolute Words Words such as only, none, all, always, and never are often false because they do not allow for exceptions.
    Qualifying Words Words such as many, may, more, some, often, and usually are often true because they do allow for exceptions.
  7. Guess at answers as long as there is no penalty.


Multiple Choice Tests

  1. Read directions thoroughly.
  2. If stuck on a question skip it, move on to the next question, and go back to it at the end of the exam. Later questions may bring to mind the answer to an earlier question.
  3. If marking answers on an answer sheet make sure that the answer you are marking goes next to the correct number.
  4. Answer the question in your mind first before looking at the answer options.
  5. Read every word of the question and the choices carefully. Misreading a single word can cause you to choose the incorrect answer.
  6. Use key words to help you determine your answer.
  7. Consider all options even if you are struck by one option immediately. One option may be the best answer.
  8. Use the process of elimination, rejecting the answers you know are incorrect. Any option you can eliminate increases your chances of choosing the correct option. The answer is the choice you cannot eliminate.
  9. Watch out for questions that begin: Which one is not an example.
  10. If stuck on a question, read the question with answer A, read the question with answer B, with answer C, with answer D.
  11. Be careful of "all of the above." Make sure all options apply before making this choice.
  12. Be careful of "none of the above." Make sure no other option is correct before making this choice.
  13. Remember that all choices are present.
  14. Be aware of article agreement. If you had the following question on an exam and did not know the answer, based on article agreement, the answer would be "onion." The name of a vegetable that grows underground is an: cucumber, tomato, onion.
  15. Be aware of singular and plural agreement agreement. If you had the following question on an exam and did not know the answer, based on plural agreement, the answer would be "deuce and love." Which of the following words are used in scoring tennis? goal, bogey, deuce and love.
  16. If guessing at an answer involving numbers, choose a number in the middle. The high and low numbers tend to be distracters.
  17. If guessing, pick a familiar option over an unfamiliar option. Be aware that an answer that contains an unfamiliar term is apt to be a distracter


Test Anxiety

Most students feel some sense of anxiety when taking exams. A low level of anxiety can be helpful as a source of motivation to do well. However, for some students, the level of anxiety is so high that it prevents them from doing their best.

The panic that some students feel during a test often stems from feelings that you are unprepared or that you have done poorly on previous exams and are convinced that you will do poorly again. However, you can control this anxiety and you can do well on this exam.

The major key in doing well on exams is being prepared. This can be accomplished by attending class regularly, listening in class effectively, developing good notetaking skills, developing good study habits, and following an effective time management plan. Additional tips to deal with text anxiety include:

  1. Study throughout the semester. Do not cram.
  2. Become acquainted with the test site.
  3. Get a good night's sleep.
  4. Eat breakfast or lunch.
  5. Allow yourself extra time to get to the exam.
  6. Don't stand around and talk to other classmates before taking your exam.
  7. Don't panic if other classmates are busy writing and you are not.
  8. Skip difficult questions. Answer the easiest questions first. Come back to the difficult questions at the end of the exam. You may find a clue to a difficult question later on in the exam.
  9. Don't over-emphasize the importance of any particular exam.
  10. Don't be upset if other classmates finish their exams before you do.
  11. Learn relaxation techniques to help reduce tension. Practice progressive muscle relaxation. Slowly tense and then relax each part of your body. Practice deep breathing. Try visualizing a favorite spot that you find soothing.
  12. Evaluate your success in a class in terms of your own grades not in terms of the grades your classmates obtain.
  13. Maintain a positive attitude.
  14. Visualize success.
  15. Overlearn the material. The best way to eliminate text anxiety is to be over prepared.