Test-taking Strategies

General Guidelines


  1. Gathering knowledge of the truth is the best preparation for tests.
    • Hours of concentrated, effective study help to carefully place facts into your memory. This is the best way to prepare for any test.
    • However, teachers often try to test your memory of the material by slightly altering it. In this case, practice and some test-taking skill will help.
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  3. Always arrive early and take a moment to relax and reduce your anxiety.
    • This brief time period will boost your confidence
    • Use this time to focus your mind and think positive thoughts.
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  5. Listen attentively to last minute instructions given by the instructor.
    • Teachers often make last minute changes.
    • Missing instructions can cause extreme anxiety.
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  7. Read the test directions very carefully and watch for details.
    • You may find that more than one answer may be possible on multiple choice tests.
    • A key detail may require that you choose only three out of the five essay questions.
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  9. Plan how you will use the allotted time.
    • Estimate how many minutes you will need to finish each test section.
    • Determine a pace which will ensure completing the whole test on time.
    • Start with the easiest section to build your confidence.
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  11. Maintain a positive attitude.
    • Don't let more difficult questions raise your anxiety and steal your valuable time. Move on and find success with other questions.
    • Avoid watching for patterns. Noticing that the last four answers are "c," is not a good reason to continue with that pattern.
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  13. Rely on your first impressions.
    • The answer which comes to mind first is often correct.
    • Nervously reviewing questions and changing answers can do more harm than good.
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  15. Plan to finish early and have time for review.
    • Return to difficult questions you marked for review.
    • Proofread your essays and pay attention to grammar and spelling.
    • Make sure you answer all the questions. Many students have failed to notice questions on the back side of the paper.
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  17. Consider every test a practice session - analyze your performance.
    • Test taking is an art which needs refinement. One can not refine the art without practice and serious evaluation.
    • Go through each test thoroughly and see if your plan worked.
    • Look at each section to identify your fault patterns. Do you need to work on true/false, multiple choice, or essay questions?
    • Talk to teachers regarding low scores, especially on essays.
  1. Negative words or prefixes complicate the statement.
    • The prefixes (un-, im-, miss-) will alter the meaning of the statement.
    • Double negatives make a positive. For example "not uncommon" actually means common.



    1. Guidelines for Essay Questions

    2. Organize your thoughts before you begin to write.
      • A short outline on a separate piece of paper will improve your essay.
      • Write the topics and the key introductory words.
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    4. Paraphrase the original question to form your introductory statement.
      • This process helps you get the question straight in your mind.
      • Restating the question allows the teacher to see how you understood the question. Perhaps you understood it to mean something other than what the teacher intended.
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    6. Use the principles of English composition
      • Form a clear thesis statement (statement of purpose) and place it as near to the beginning as possible.
      • Provide clear explanations to back up the main concept.
      • Remember, a complete answer usually has a main idea, supporting details and illustrative examples.
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    8. Write clearly! Teachers need to be able to read it.
      • Making teachers work hard to read lowers your grade.
      • Print clearly, using a dark-colored erasable ball point pen.
      • Avoid crossing out words or sentences, and don't smudge your paper.
      • Remember to save some space for a brief but adequate summary.
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    10. Use lists or bullets wherever possible.
      • Numbers or bullets allow the teacher to easily see your points.
      • Never bury your lists or key points in the middle of a paragraph.
      • If you must use a long paragraph, underline your key points.
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    12. Identify the verbs or words in the question that give you direction.
      • Key words in each question describe the task you are expected to complete.
      • Circle the direction words in the question to make sure that you are focusing on the desired task.
      • Sample direction verbs or adjectives, and their generally intended action or task, are listed below.

     

    Direction verbs that ask you to review an idea or concept in your own words:

    summarize, survey, discuss, explain

    Direction verbs that ask for a set of items or ideas that were presented in lecture or reading. These action words generally require more precise wording of items by giving numbers or steps:

    trace, outline, list, diagram, solve

    Directions verbs that ask you to speak in favor of a concept or give the reasons why it should be accepted as valid:

    defend, argue, debate, contend, justify

    Directions verbs that ask for a specific meaning or picture of a concept:

    define, clarify, describe, depict, illustrate

    Directions verbs that ask you to show differences in several ideas or situations:

    contrast, compare, distinguish, differentiate,

    Direction adjectives that ask for specific information the instructor considers important:

    significant, critical, key, important, major, principal, essential, vital