Test Taking Tips & Strategies

Test Taking Tips & Strategies


Quizzes, tests and final exams spell anxiety for many students. These examinations show your teachers what you have learned as well as how you have grasped the concepts taught in class and whether or not you can apply these concepts to various test questions. Scores on tests also tell a teacher how well they have taught the material and whether or not concepts have been properly learned.  Sometimes your entire grade in a class can come down to your performance on one test. Quizzes and tests usually cover material taught over a short period whereas final exams cover topics covered for an entire quarter, semester or school year.

Exam Days

It is important to be on-time for exam days. Many a student has slept through an important exam! Set several alarms if you have difficulty getting up in the morning, arrange for wake-up calls, and ask parents or friends to help make sure you are awake. Get a good night sleep several nights leading up to an important exam and make sure that you eat a healthy breakfast before your exam. Protein is great, but avoid a huge breakfast if you do not regularly eat breakfast. Having six Red Bulls or energy drinks for breakfast is not an option.

Start your day with a shower as it will wake you up! Being clean will help you feel like a competent, put-together person. Brush your teeth. Be prepared for all weather types by wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt under a long-sleeved shirt and bring a sweatshirt. The key here is to be comfortable and to wear layers that are easy to remove, if need be. It is not a fashion show! Wear an easy to read watch (digital recommended). Avoid any noisy jewelry or bracelets. Girls, pull your hair back out of your face. Have water and snacks with you, if allowed, especially for long tests.

 Make sure you have all materials with you including pencils, pens, calculators, and reference material allowed. Avoid last minute cram sessions on the day of an exam. Hopefully, you have properly prepared and you can just review any final notes you have made. Avoid conversations with other students, especially those who tend to panic and can confuse issues at the last minute. Choose your seat wisely.

Taking The Exam

When the test is handed out, take a few minutes to glance through all pages of the exam to get a feel for the individual sections. Take a look at how the points for the exam are distributed and schedule your time accordingly. For example, if there are multiple choice questions and an essay each worth 50 points, then split your time evenly to make sure you maximize your score. Being aware of what an upcoming essay question is about as you complete other parts of the test can come in handy. Perhaps you will see topics covered or vocabulary used that can be useful in writing the essay. If you see a particularly easy section, you can start with it to build some easy points as well as gain some confidence.

Always read directions carefully as well as test questions. Watch for the dreaded “NOT” or “EXCEPT”. These words catch students all of the time. Make sure you are answering what the question is asking. Remember teachers often spend as much time drafting incorrect answers as they do drafting correct answers. If you are stumped on a question, skip it and come back. Spending too much time debating an answer on a difficult question can keep you from getting to five easy questions. Pace yourself. Always take all of the time you are allotted to take the exam.

Guessing intelligently can be easier said than done. For multiple-choice tests, eliminate as many answer choices as possible and then make your selection. Your odds of guessing the correct answer go up with each elimination. For true-false questions, you are looking for an example that makes the statement incorrect. Think of one and you have your answer. Be aware of any penalties for incorrect answers. Mark questions you have guessed on and then go back and review if you have extra time.

If your test includes an essay question, carefully read the prompt and directions for writing the essay. The material should be familiar to you. Always begin by planning your essay and preparing a brief outline. Know where you are headed before your start writing. Always include an introduction with a well thought out thesis statement, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Vary your writing style and vocabulary used; always include specific examples. Write neatly and legibly. Skip lines between paragraphs.

Feeling Panicky

First, try to control your breathing. Second, you can use positive visualization. Imagine moving through the test question by question, and skipping and coming back on any question that gives you grief. Imagine finishing the test and being able to enjoy the rest of your day or week with the test behind you. It will all be just fine. No one test will define you! Tell yourself you can do it, because you can!


If your results on a quiz, test, or final exam are not what you expected, make sure you schedule a time to review the exam with your teacher. Where did you go wrong? Did you make careless errors, not answer the question asked, or perhaps you did not know the material. If you have missed too many classes, not completed assigned reading or homework, short-changed class room assignments, you are not setting yourself up for a successful exam performance. Move into the next chapter, quarter, semester or school year with a renewed purpose and goal. Attend all classes, do all assigned work, ask questions when confused, and you will have more success on any quizzes, tests, and final exams you take!


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