Study Skills/Tests

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Before the test

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  • Before you take the test, make sure that you know as much as you can about the test. What is the format? What are the likely questions? What is the grading policy?
  • If there is a sample test available, it is an essential resource. When possible, you should practice sample tests until you pass one (by your standards) on the first try.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the test location, visit it beforehand.
  • Get a good night's sleep. Eat breakfast in the morning.
  • Don't think about bad situations, because it will make you more troubled in your test.

At the start of the test

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  • If permitted in a timed test, put your watch next to your test. It makes it easier to glance at the time without disturbing your train of thought.
  • Look over the entire test before you start any work. This will give you some ideas about what sections to do and what sections not to work on. Do the easy questions first. Keep in mind that in standardized tests the easy questions are usually the first ones.
  • Read the instructions. Often teachers provide guidance about the best way to take the test in the instructions (point values, time suggestions). This information is there for a reason, use it to your best advantage.

During the test

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  • Don't spend too much time on one question. Read the question thoroughly and slowly. Make sure to read all answer options even if one seems 'obvious'. There might be a better answer.
  • Write neatly. This makes it easier on the instructor grading the test, which is always to your benefit. However, you may need to resort to scribbling in certain areas for long answers you are unsure of, as the grader is highly unlikely to read the entire answer and will probably skip that part.
  • If you get stuck, mark the question for review and go on to the next question. Subsequent questions may prompt your memory with an answer. After completing all questions, come back and review all questions. During the review you can complete all questions marked for review.
  • If you are starting to freeze, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and pause for a moment. This will help you to relax and get back on track.
  • On multiple choice questions you do not know the answer to, work to eliminate any choices that are incorrect, then choose from the remaining choices.
  • After completing the entire test, go back to the beginning and review your answers. Research shows that 70% of all changed answers go from wrong to right.

Near the end of the test

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  • Unless you know that points will be taken off for wrong answers, leave nothing blank. Even if you are wildly guessing, you might get lucky.
  • Even with an essay question, write what you know. A partial answer tells the teacher what you still need to learn, and may result in points (remember any points are better than none).
  • Before you turn the test in, make sure that you have your name on the test.
  • On standardized forms, make sure that all the pencil marks are nice and dark and in the ovals.
  • On multiple choice questions that are not on standardized forms, make sure your intended answer is clear, and that you followed the teacher's guidance about how to write the answer properly.

When you get your test back

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  • Do a quick check to make sure that the numbers were added correctly and that there are no obvious mistakes in grading. In general, it is not worth the effort to challenge a grade unless there is an obvious and unarguable flaw.
  • If you have questions about why something is wrong, ask the instructor. You should not go to your instructor to get points back on the test, but to gain a better understanding of the material and to be better prepared for future tests.
  • Use the test as a study guide. Focus on both what you got right and what you got wrong.