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Test Taking Tips

"I don't test well." We've all heard or used this common excuse used by students. It's something that students say in order to slip out of trouble for a bad grade on a test or quiz. I won't lie, I've used it myself once or twice. I'm sure everyone has at some point or another.

Although, there is some truth to what is being said. Test taking can be very stressful on students. But I have some good tips as to what can help relieve some of the stress on students while taking tests.

1. Don't feel the need to take the test in order: One of the first mistakes that a student can make is to feel like the test needs to be done chronologically. Being a science major and a math tutor, I spend a lot of time working on equations. The tests I take revolve almost completely around a combination of multiple-choice and open-answer questions. No matter what order the test is in, I always do the open-answer questions first. Those are what take me the longest. Say I have 45 minutes to take a test. If I finish off the open-answer questions in 30 minutes first, I have plenty of time to do the multiple-choice quickly. Students should do what they feel will take them the longest first. That way, if they run short on time when finished with that section, they can finish the test quicker rather than having to worry about not having enough time.

2. Skip around: This goes along with not taking the test in order. If you don't know the answer to something, go to the next question and come back later. If you spend too much time on one question in the middle of the test, then you may not have enough time to finish everything else. Get what you know out of the way immediately, and then go back to the stuff you have to work on.

3. Leave nothing blank: This is a good tip for multiple-choice. If you have a blank answer, then it’s automatically wrong. Even if you’re not sure, record it. You can use process of elimination on multiple-choice, so if you don’t have the right answer, you can still try to figure out what is not the right answer. And even on open-answer, if you know the process to get to the answer, but the answer you come to doesn’t seem right, the teacher will, most likely, still give you partial credit. Out of a question that’s worth 10 points, it’s better to get 4 points on it rather than 0.

4. Letter of the day: We have all come to those multiple choice questions where we have no idea what the answer is. However, leaving it blank will do you know good. So if you come to a question in which you 1) don’t know the answer and 2) can’t use a process of elimination to limit your possible answers, have a letter of the day. This is when you pick a letter (a-e) that you will use for all of the questions you don’t know the answer to.

5. Be prepared: There is no set amount of time you need to study. If you feel very confident with the subject, you probably don’t need to study as much as for a subject that you aren’t as comfortable with. Make sure you study for an appropriate amount of time. Also, make sure you have eaten prior to the test. I’m not going to go into the whole “Being hungry lowers brain function” and such. It’s just distracting when your stomach is screaming “I’M HUNGRY!” while you’re trying to focus on a test. Your mind starts to think about food rather than answers. And stay hydrated. Something I notice is that when you’re sitting around for an extended period of time, your mouth gets dry. It’s the same theory as eating before the test. You’ll start thinking about getting a drink rather than your test.

I hope, to whoever reads this, finds it helpful. These are the same techniques that I use while testing, and I find that I am a better test taker from using them.


Jay A.

High school tutoring in math, chemistry, and math SAT prep