Test-Taking Strategies

Taking Objective Tests

If you are taking an objective test (multiple-choice, true/false, or comparable type), you will probably achieve your best results by following this procedure:

  1. Read an item through quickly, with high concentration, and answer on the basis of your first impression.

  2. Then re-read the item, asking yourself what it really means and expressing its thought in your own words.

  3. Ask yourself if your original answer still appears correct in light of your close analysis of the item, but do not change your answer because of a mere doubt.

  4. Always keep in mind that your instructor is not attempting to trick you in the questions. They are designed to measure your knowledge of a subject, not your ingenuity in solving verbal puzzles. So don't out-smart yourself looking for devious, tricky interpretations and ignoring the obvious, straightforward meaning.

Essay Tests

In taking a test where you are to write answers in your own words, observe these guidelines:

  1. Read the question carefully. Then re-read it and express its meaning in your own words. Check each word in the question to be sure that your interpretation omitted nothing important. To give a satisfactory answer to a question, you have to correctly understand what the question is asking.

  2. Answer the questions you know first. This way you will be sure not to use all your time puzzling over questions you do not know the answers to, and then run short of time for writing answers you know well.

  3. Outline your answer on a piece of scratch paper before starting to write it in full. In this way you can organize your thoughts and check your answer against the question for possible omissions. Writing from your outline, you can present what you know more clearly and completely than you could if you just started writing down your thoughts as they came to you.

  4. Write with a good pen, or a well-sharpened No. 2 pencil, so that your writing can be easily read. Also, watch your penmanship, spelling, and punctuation.

  5. Read over your answers after you have finished your paper, checking for thought and completeness, as well as for spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure. All these factors are related to your mastery of course material. What is involved in answering a question "completely" is determined by the question's wording and the preferences of individual professors. From the number of questions on the test and the amount of time you are allotted, you can form a rough approximation of how fully you should answer the questions.

  6. Count your questions and answers before you hand your paper in to be sure you did not overlook anything. Be sure your pages are in correct order so the instructor will not have to shuffle through them trying to sort them out.

Preparing for Finals

  • At least a week before exams, shift into overdrive by beginning an extensive review.  Set up a detailed time schedule for the remainder of the semester.

  • Attend all classes as instructors often use the last few classes prior to an exam to summarize, review, and clarify.

  • Prepare summary sheets, one set for text and one for lecture.

  • Pick out the most important facts.

  • Organize information into categories in a manner different from the way you first leaned it.  For example, History is chronological, so try organizing your notes under headings that emphasize time instead of themes.

  • Review summary sheets and include key words for important facts.

  • Recite information orally - ACTIVE learning is essential!  How you store information determines how well you retrieve it, so use all your senses when reviewing.

  • If you must cram, resist trying to memorize too much material.  Select only a handful of facts even at the risk of leaving out something important.

During Exams

  • Arrive early and remember to BREATHE!

  • Read and listen to directions.

  • Skim the exam and plan your time.

  • Answer the easy questions first to build confidence and create momentum.  You might work the test from back to front, answering the last question first.

  • A question you can't answer can be skipped, often another question will trigger your memory or provide that elusive answer.

  • Answer all questions.

  • Save a few minutes at the end to go back over questions you skipped, to review your answers and look for careless mistakes.