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Test Taking Tips

Before the Test

  • Ask the instructor what will be covered on an exam: which chapters, lab experiments, lectures, outside readings, etc.
  • Ask questions about confusing material. You cannot remember what you do not understand.
  • Concentrate on recalling specific details (who, where, when) to prepare for an objective test; focus on broad concepts for an essay exam.
  • Re-organize your material to effectively re-process and reinforce. This may require re-writing, which can be an excellent memory aid. For example, if your history notes are arranged chronologically, rearrange them by cause and effect, problem/solution, or biographically. Rearrange math notes by terminology, general principles, definition, or kinds of examples given.
  • Keep, correct, and review all returned quizzes, tests, and papers. See your instructor if unsure of correct answers.
  • If your instructor does not return old tests, ask if you can schedule a time to come in and look at them.
  • Try to predict test questions. Have a separate section of your notebook labeled "test questions". Add several questions to this section after every lecture and assignment.
  • Get a good night's sleep and do not forget to eat. A relaxed brain is a more effective brain.
  • Get rid of test anxiety.


Test Anxiety

If you freeze during tests and miss questions when you know the answers, you might be suffering from test anxiety. A little nervousness before a test can help you to perform better. The butterflies in your stomach are from extra adrenaline that can sharpen your awareness and keep you alert. However, if the tension is extreme, it can cause loss of sleep, loss of appetite, and poor performance on tests.


Ways to counteract test anxiety:

  • Yell "stop!" Do this when your thoughts are racing and your mind is cluttered with fear and worries.
  • Daydream. Fill your mind with pleasant thoughts so there will be no room left for anxiety.
  • Visualize success. Most of us live up to our own expectations, good or bad. If you spend a lot of time mentally rehearsing how it will be to fail, you increase your chances for failure. If you think you can or you think you cannot, you are right.
  • Consider the worst. Take the fear to the limit of absurdity. If you fail a test that could make you fail the course, ask yourself can I live with that? Unless it is a test in parachute packing, the answer will always be yes. Get your fears out into the open and face them. They are less scary that way.
  • Breathe. Take deep breaths for two to five minutes.
  • Exercise aerobically. This reduces body tension.


During the Test

  • Arrive on time.
  • Read all directions carefully- twice if necessary.
  • Read each question carefully. Make sure you understand each one before you answer. Re-read if necessary.
  • Skip and return to difficult questions.
  • Do not read into questions. Often simple looking questions are just what they appear to be.
    Edit, check, and proofread your answers. Stay working until time is up.


Multiple Choice Questions

  • If two answers are similar, except for one or two words, choose one of these answers.
  • If two answers have similar sounding or similar looking words (intermediate, intermittent), choose one of these answers.
  • If the answer calls for a sentence completion, eliminate the answers that would not form grammatically correct sentences.
  • If two quantities are almost the same, choose one.
  • If answers cover a wide range (4.5, 66.7, 88.7, 90.1, 5000.11), then choose in the middle of the range.
  • If there is no penalty for guessing and none of the above techniques work, close your eyes and go for it.


True or False Questions

  • If any part of the statement is false, the answer is false.
  • Look for qualifiers like all, most, sometimes, never, or rarely. These are the key word upon which the question depends.
  • Absolute qualifiers, such as always or never, generally indicate a false statement.


Essay Questions

  • Write legibly.
  • Write on one side of the page only.
  • Proofread and edit your answer.
  • Read the question carefully. Make sure you know what the question is asking.
  • Analyze: Break into separate parts and discuss, examine, or interpret each part.
  • Compare: Examine two or more things. Identify similarities and differences.
  • Contrast: Show differences.
  • Criticize: Make judgments. Evaluate comparative worth.
  • Define: Give the meaning- usually a meaning specific to the course. Explain the exact meaning. Definitions are usually short.
  • Describe: Give a detailed account. Make a picture with words. List characteristics, qualities, and parts.
  • Discuss: Consider and debate or argue the pros and cons of an issue. Write about any conflict.
  • Enumerate: List several ideas, aspects, events, things, qualities, reasons, etc.
  • Evaluate: Give your opinion or cite the opinion of an expert. Include evidence to support the evaluation.
  • Explain: Make an idea clear. Show logically how a concept is developed. Give the reasons for an event.
  • Illustrate: Give concrete examples. Explain clearly by using comparisons or examples.
  • Interpret: Comment upon, give examples, or describe relationships. Explain the meaning. Describe, then evaluate.
  • Outline: Describe main ideas, characteristics, or events.
  • Prove: Support with facts, especially facts presented in class or in the text.
  • Relate: Show the connections between ideas or events. Provide larger context.
  • State: Explain precisely, briefly, and to the point.
  • Summarize: Give a brief, condensed account. Include conclusions. Avoid unnecessary details.
  • Trace: Show the order of events or progress of a subject or event.