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Test Taking Techniques

The best way to be successful on tests is to have good basic study habits and to study throughout the semester. (Click HERE to go to the Study Techniques page.) However, below is some advice that may help you the day of the test.

General Tips

  • As soon as you get the test, write down any formulas or important information you do not want to forget.
  • Read through the exam to develop a game plan.
    1. Know how many points each section is worth
    2. Determine how to allocate your time.
    3. Do you want to tackle the questions you are most confident with in order to spend more time later on difficult questions?
    4. Do you want to start with the section worth the most points?
  • Do not linger on questions when you do not know the answer. Mark the question in the margin and come back to it if you have time.
  • Think critically about each question and how it is phrased. If you do not understand what a question is asking, try to rephrase it in your mind or look at it from a different perspective.
  • Do not rush out of the room when you finish. Take time to review your test.
    1. Did you answer every question?
    2. Did you answer thoroughly?
    3. Re-read the essay questions and the answers.
    4. Make sure you answered all parts of each question.
  • Be sure that you are well rested the day of an exam.

Tips for Multiple-Choice Questions

  • Think of the correct answer before looking at the provided answer. If you find the answer you thought of as a choice, select it.
  • Read all possible answers.
  • Read questions carefully. Some questions ask for the best answer. Some questions ask for the only correct answer or the only incorrect answer.
  • Do not base your answers on the letter choice of previous answers. (Do not look for patterns.)
  • Use process of elimination. Cross out the answers you know are wrong, then determine which answer to select from the remaining.

Tips for Essay or Short Answer Questions

  • Make a quick outline of the points you want to make in your answer.
  • Read the question carefully before and after writing your essay. Some students make the mistake of not answering the full question.
  • Know how much each essay question is worth and allocate your time accordingly.
    1. A question worth 50 percent of the test grade should be answered as thoroughly as possible.
    2. A question worth 10 percent of the test grade may require more of a short answer.
  • Look for key words that tell you how to answer the question
    1. Describe/Discuss: This means you will write about the topic or idea as thoroughly as possible.
    2. Explain: This means you will describe how or why.
    3. Compare: You will be expected to state how two or more items are the same and how they are different.
    4. Contrast: You will be expected to state how two or more items differ.
    5. Analyze: You will explain an idea or topic critically and note both its strength and weakness as an idea or argument.
  • Even if you cannot remember the exact terminology, you can still explain a concept in your own words to demonstrate your knowledge.