Best Your Test: Eight Techniques for Acing Any Test

Knowing how to take a test is a vital skill that all serious students must practice. There are many types of exams that you will be required take to over your academic career. The following guide can be applied to all types of tests, from everyday subject tests in school to those pesky standardized tests. Take notes on the methods that are summarized below and try out these techniques on your next exam.

Scan. When you open your test, start by familiarizing yourself with the material. Scan the entire test immediately and evaluate the importance of each section. Note the amount of points each section is worth and estimate how much time will be needed for each part.

Read. Slowly read the directions and underline key words. It can be agonizing to lose points when you knew the material, but misread the directions. If the directions ask for one concise paragraph for your answer, write exactly one paragraph! Occasionally directions will state that you should answer only some of the questions (“pick eight out of ten questions to answer”). Discovering this after answering all ten questions is not only irking, but also takes away precious time from other parts of the test.

Write. Write down helpful facts that you memorized for the test so you do not worry about forgetting them and can refer to them during the test.

Answer. Start by answering the shortest questions first. This gives you the experience of success and prepares your brain for the harder questions.

Increase recall. What happens if an important fact slips your mind? First try to think of something similar. Start from the general and move to the specific. If you are still floundering, try writing a brief mind map to stimulate your memory. (This should not take more than one or two minutes. If so, cut it loose and move on to the next question. You can always come back to it at the end if time permits.)

Leave extra space. Whether you are writing your answers in sentence form or crunching numbers, leave extra space between answers. You will often recall an additional fact while completing a different problem, prompting you to add to a previous answer. Moreover, your instructor will appreciate the extra space when grading your test.

Look for answers elsewhere. It is common for answers to show up in other test questions. A date, equation, or other fact that you cannot remember may appear in the test itself.

Use your gut. For quick-answer questions such as true/false or multiple-choice, pay attention to your instinct. Never change your answer unless you are absolutely confident in your second choice.