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The art of test-taking

Students give many excuses for failing tests. Most excuses however, involve the generic, "I don't test well." This is not a specific enough reason, and is usually impossible to “fix”. (This is a case of asking a tutor for help and you have no idea of what type of help you need.) Most of the time students blame the test, or the practice tests they were given, were not given, or did not practice. Why don't you test well? Disabilities aside, did you skim the questions instead of reading them? Did you over-think questions? Did you over-think the answers? (The “Agony” of the Choices). If you don't test well, you'll need to fix any of these types of problems before you hit the retest.

Some students do poorly on tests because they over – think the questions. They worry too much and convince themselves that the wrong answers could be correct. Here is a “free” piece of advice regarding multiple choices: If there are four answers, one is way off, a second is also wrong, but not as obviously wrong, and one is very close to the actual correct answer. Most students can eliminate the first two wrong answers quickly, and then have to consider the other two choices (only) before picking the correct one. Some students however, read more into each answer, imagining different angles, different word meanings, or scenarios and convince themselves that all possible answers could be true.

Reading and comprehension are required to pass written tests. Reading and comprehension are also large components of studying. You need to read and comprehend the test material. Yes, for preparation, you can listen to lectures and watch videos, but those exercises will not be a substitute for building reading/comprehension. Eventually, you will need to read, just as you are reading this.

Critical thinking is also involved in test taking. Many times the format of the question is blamed, (falls under – “They were trick questions”). The world rarely asks, "What is 18 times 24?" The question usually is more along the lines of, "You are asked to hire a contractor from downtown to install a plush green carpet in an 18 foot by 24 foot conference room. How many square yards, (carpeting is generally sold by the square yard) do you need?" This could be over-thought in so many, many ways. Do you add extra carpet to make sure there is enough? STOP! Nobody said anything about that. Do downtown contractors measure feet a little differently (as opposed to uptown)? Does plush green carpeting shrink when it is put down? (Yes, sure and Blue expands). The question simply asks how much you need, not how much do you want. It does not mention minimum purchase units, or ask how much you will buy, so the question simply is, "How many square yards of carpet will cover an 18 foot by 24 foot room?" The rest of the question simply contains distraction information. Do not Panic, The answer is 48 square yards.