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Taking Tests

Some strategies

photo of person filling in a scan sheet with words: Taking Tests | Doing well on a test involves more than knowledge —you must have a strategy!

Doing well on a test involves more than just “knowing your stuff”—you must have a strategy!

“The greater the obstacle,
the more glory in overcoming it.”

Just before I went off to college, my high-school librarian (Sr. Barbara Ann) lent me a copy of a test-taking book to read.  WOW!  I didn’t know that I could improve my test scores just by using a few simple strategies.  I’ve been using them (and adding to them) ever since—with great results.

Here are a few strategies that may help

Practice taking the test

Sometimes there are practice tests available or sometimes you can take an online test more than once.  Use these opportunities to learn what to expect: what kind of questions, what the depth of coverage is, and so on.  It’ll help you get a feel for the test.

student dozingBe in good shape

You can’t do well if you’ve been up all night studying, are all stressed out, are sick, or simply have too much going on in your life.  Do what you can to minimize all these things.  Especially don’t cram for a test!  That’s the worst kind of mistake that most students make.  It doesn’t really help you learn much and it greatly reduces your ability to be in top form for the test.  Don’t eat a lot of carbohydrates just before a test, either, or you’ll feel sluggish and want to take a nap instead of working on science.  Take your test in a framework of having fun.

WARNING: Please do not tell your relatives that you have an exam approaching.  The death rate of relatives, especially elderly female relatives, increases dramatically just before exams.  Theoretically, if your family doesn’t know about your exam they will have a lower risk of fatal illness or accident.
Check out this link for details.

Skim over the test before working on it

This will help you get a feel for what to expect and will help you plan your time on the test effectively.  You may also want to jump ahead to sections that you know you can breeze through quickly –leaving more time for the harder sections.

And don’t forget to READ THE DIRECTIONS!  You wouldn’t believe how many students skip that part and just dive right in!  Yikes, this isn’t like putting together a bookshelf –you really do have to read the directions FIRST.

Some online tests do not allow you to go back to questions you’ve skipped, so don’t us this tip in that case!
(for help with online tests click here)

Analyze items critically

Easier said than done, but try to step back from the question and look at it from a logical, puzzle-solving perspective.  What clues are there in the way the question is worded?  Do you really understand what is being asked -not just reacting to a key word or phrase that you recognize?  Are there qualifying words in the question (or choices for answers), such as always or never that give you a clue?  Can you eliminate some possibilities right away so that you can focus on the likely choices for an answer?

Read the item again to make sure you’ve not missed anything

Don’t leave an item until you’ve double-checked to make sure that you’ve read it (and any choices) carefully and correctly.  Correct the answer if your re-interpretation of the item requires it.

Go with the gut

Often, your first response is the right one. Assuming that you are reading the item correctly.  And assuming that you have prepared well for the test. If you recall the correct fact later, well go ahead and change the item!  But also be careful about “second-guessing” yourself—overthinking the item—and going for a wrong answer after you’ve already found the correct one.

Of course, there’s a lot more to it than this.  You can find hundreds of other tips on the links below.

Here’s a brief video discussing test and exam strategies:

Here are some more tips and other resources

Lion Den help for online Canvas tests: CANVAS troubleshooting guides (applies to Kevin’s courses)

Lion Den tips: Online Tests

The A&P Student blog articles: Test-taking Tips

A bunch of other tips: Test-taking Strategies


Last updated: October 22, 2021 at 14:57 pm