Test Taking Skills

Pre-Exam Preparation

  • Remember: You want to start with the material you’re not confident about.
  • Utilize practice exams.
  • Don’t just memorize facts. Material makes more sense if you are able to understand how it all fits together.
  • Do not attempt to “cram” the morning of an exam. The material you study will only go into your short-term memory and could confuse what you have already learned. Also, do not discuss possible questions as you walk into the exam. If someone mentions something unfamiliar and out of context, you may panic and think you didn’t study enough. This will just make you anxious about the exam.

Preparing for Multiple Tests:

  • As soon as you have the syllabus for each class write the dates of important tests, projects, and papers so they don’t sneak up on you.
  • Break up the work so it doesn’t get boring and strenuous.
  • Set up a schedule of alternating times and locations to work/study.
  • Classify your exams in order of difficulty.
    • Spread studying for difficult exams over the span of a few days.
    • Try and reward yourself at the end of each day for accomplishing your goal: i.e. Dinner out or movie with a friend.
  • Decide which subject needs more attention and focus more time on that one.
  • Leave yourself a few days of “wiggle room” before something is due so you can tweak it to perfection, or if things just pile up too much, you won’t feel so pressed for time and end up doing a sub-par job.

Logistical Steps for the Night Before the Exam:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine which increases anxiety.
  • Give yourself time to feel composed and to be on time for the exam.
  • Avoid anxious classmates who are talking about the exam.

Logistical Steps for the Day Of the Exam:

  • Focus your attention on the test.
  • Avoid wasting time and energy worrying about your grade or wondering what others are doing.
  • If you start to feel anxious, practice your relaxation techniques. Use anxiety as a cue to relax. Close your eyes, take three deep breaths and then back to the task.

GAME TIME: What to do During the Exam:

  • GO back to the questions that you weren’t sure of at the end of the test if time permits.
  • If you don’t know the answer, mark the answer that you think is the best answer and move on. Later questions may jog your memory.
  • Eliminate answers as quickly as possible to narrow down your choices.
  • Try to generate the answer before looking at the choices.
  • Trust yourself and what you know.
  • Pacing:

    • Look at the last page and determine how many questions are on the exam.
    • How much time do you have to answer all of the questions?
    • Look at the clock to determine if you are close to where you wanted to be only when you reach your time markers.
    • Do not check the time frequently. It may slow you down and shake your confidence.
    • Allow for time at the end to go back to rethink questions you marked as “unsure.”
  • DO NOT change your answers:

    • Only change an answer if you have a revelation at a later point in the exam.
    • It can be easy to talk yourself into the wrong answer when checking your work.
  • Look for clues in the question stem:

    • Absolute terms
    • Grammar
    • Logical clues

Text Anxiety:

  • Test anxiety consists of mental components and physical components of stress linked to test taking. Anxiety is an indicator of the importance we attach to an event and our concern that we may not succeed.
  • *A small, manageable amount of anxiety can be good. It can help keep you focused and motivated.
  • Overcoming Text Anxiety:

    • Most effective way: Planning Ahead Mentally
      • Overcome blocking: The moment when anxiety overwhelms you, panic substitutes for reason, and frustration and anger block the flow of thought. If you encounter a test item you can’t answer, calm yourself, rationally decide to leave the question which stumped you, continue with the exam, and come back to that item later. This will prevent the block from interfering with the rest of the test.
      • Accept imperfection and uncertainty: Imperfection and uncertainty are part of living. LEARN TO EXPERIENCE EACH TEST AS A CHALLENGE!
    • Surefire ways to INDUCE Test Anxiety–What to Avoid:
      • Cramming
      • Comparing yourself to others
      • Self-defeating thinking
  • Summary:

    • Relaxation
    • Adequate preparation through improvement of test-taking and study skills
    • Effective health habits, exercise, and good nutrition
    • Monitoring of thinking patterns and positive self-talk