Test-Taking Tips

Have a General Plan

  • Take a deep breath and let it out slowly, relax and forget about other people and what they are doing.
  • Read the directions carefully.
  • Look over the entire test first. Determine types of questions, how many points for each, whether you have a choice of which questions to answer.
  • Adopt a time budget for each type of question, allowing time for checking.
  • Answer the easiest questions first.
  • Try to base your answers on textbook and lecture information first, not your own experience.
  • Check the questions when you are unsure of the answer.
  • Try to be the last to leave, not the first. Use your extra time for checking.

Dealing with Different Types of Questions

Essay and Short-Answer Questions

  • Read all questions first. Note if you have a choice of which to answer.
  • Jot down key words and major ideas as you read.
  • Budget your time. Determine how much time you will spend on each question. Keep track of time.
  • Begin with the easiest question.
  • Briefly outline your answer to help you organize the essay. Use the key words/major ideas you previously noted.
  • Cover only the points asked for in the question.
  • Write legibly.
  • Answer every required question. No answer = 0 credit.
  • Leave space for corrections/additions if possible (an extra line between paragraphs, at the top & bottom of pages, etc.).
  • Use technical terminology if appropriate.
  • Be concise if time is at a premium.
  • Watch spelling.
  • Reread and polish.

Multiple Choice, True-False, Matching Questions

  • Read each question twice before answering
  • Answer questions with your first inclination
  • Don’t expect trick questions!
  • Always guess if there is no penalty for wrong answers
  • Eliminate answers definitely wrong
  • Make an educated guess among plausible answers
  • Use exam cues (unintentional mistakes of test writer)

       1. qualified answers are more likely correct than absolute answer
       2. avoid choosing either of two synonyms
       3. if opposite both used, one is probably correct
       4. avoid bizarre or completely unfamiliar distracters
       5. watch for consistent grammatical structure between stem and answer
       6. clues to some answers may be found in other questions

  • Follow directions meticulously if a special answer sheet is used
  • Is a special pencil required?
  • Put the answer mark in the proper space! Don’t over mark the answer; make the mark just dark enough
  • Void all extraneous marks; make careful erasures
  • Check question number with answer number frequently
  • Mark those that you are unsure of so that you can come back to them. Don’t spend too much time on any one question
  • When going back to uncertain questions, go with your first hunch if you have no idea what other choices to pick. However, if you go back and believe you have information to narrow choices to other answers or that a different choice is likely more correct, then change your original selection

Note: Use the exam cues suggestions ONLY when guessing. They are no help with a sophisticated test and are no substitute for thorough preparation

Problem-solving questions

  • Budget time
  • Is emphasis on computational accuracy or procedures?
  • Check your work carefully

Before You Turn Your Test In, Check It. Ask Yourself

  • Did I follow directions?
  • Are there any spelling or grammatical errors?
  • Did I answer each question fully?

After the Test

When the test is returned, read any comments so that you understand any mistakes you made. Insure that even on an objective test, you understand why the answer you choose is incorrect. Talk with your instructor, and ask for help if uncertain or if you did more poorly than you expected. Too often students wait until right before the final to do this. Make a habit of talking with your instructor before and after examinations so that you understand mistakes and also so that questions or uncertainties can be answered and explained to you.

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