How to Improve Your Test-Taking Skills: Top Tips & Strategies

Are you dreading your upcoming test because you feel unprepared? Or are you simply looking to refresh and improve your test-taking skills?
In this article by experts, you’ll find a collection of excellent test-taking tips and strategies. Even if you only have one day to prepare for your test, you’re sure to use some of them.

1. 📅 Test-Taking Strategies: Planning

✔️Make a planWhether you have months, weeks, or only a day to prepare for a test, creating a study plan is a great way to manage your time and study more efficiently. Suppose you have plenty of time before the test. In that case, it will help you to start a regular studying routine and organize your studying into more manageable chunks.
Even if you only have one day to prepare, a study plan is still essential. Even more so, as it will help you stay on track and focus on the most important areas.
✔️Make summary sheets regularlyReview your lecture notes and course material at the end of each week. Create summary sheets for each course while the information is still fresh in your mind. It will make life much easier for you. Take note of any gaps in your summary sheets.
✔️Find out everything you can about the testThis will help you plan and prepare in advance. You’ll manage your time more efficiently. It can also help reduce stress, as you will have a better idea of what to expect. Below are some important dates and details you should write down.
– the time, duration, date, and location of each test
– the type of each test
– the percentage of your grade that each test is worth
– the lectures when your teachers will give you more details about the tests
– the topics & hints that your teachers give you about what to expect
– the equipment that you’re allowed to bring with you
✔️Identify the most problematic areasDon’t avoid the areas that you’re struggling with. For example, if there is a question that you’re hoping won’t be on the test, work on that one first, so you’re prepared.
✔️Organize a study groupEarly in the semester, consider organizing a small study group with a few students from your course. And set up a Facebook group where you can manage study sessions and help each other if anyone has a question.

2. 🤓 Test-Taking Tips: Preparing for the Test

✔️Review your summary sheetsAt this point, you’ll thank your past self for spending a little time each week during the semester to create summary sheets. They should include relevant information only. For example, if your final test will check what you learned in the second half of the semester, focus on the appropriate sheets. If you have more time, you might also refresh the essential points from the first half of the semester.
✔️Set your prioritiesIt is especially important if you have several tests to prepare for. It will help you manage your time efficiently. It would be best if you focused on the closest tests. Also, think of the tests that are worth more of your grade and the easiest ones.
✔️Find a working placeDo you prefer to study inside or outside? Do you feel more comfortable in a quiet library, at home, or in a cafe with a steady supply of coffee? Find a few different places that work best for you.
✔️Stay motivatedMotivation may not be on your list of test-taking tips, but it should be. It’s especially important to find ways to stay motivated if you’re starting to feel the pressure and becoming overwhelmed. Here are some suggestions for how you could stay motivated:
– Think about why you’re studying in the first place
– Make plans with your friends for the time after you’ve finished your tests
– Decorate your desk with motivating things
✔️Use memory techniquesHere are some examples of memory techniques that could help make it easier for you to memorize information:
RhymesFlashcards: if you have to remember a list of dates, create a flashcard for each one with the date on one side and the event on the other side
Repetition: write it again by hand, get someone to test you with your flashcards every day, etc.
Stories: make stories and associate them with the information you need to remember
Recordings: record yourself reading your study notes aloud and listen to the recording while you go about your day or before you go to sleep
✔️Complete practice testsPractice tests are a great way to prepare for your final tests. Review any practice tests that you completed in class, and find out if you can access past tests.
✔️Review your previous testsIf you’ve already completed tests during the semester, review them and take note of any areas that you could improve in.
✔️Organize a collective study sessionIf you started a small study group earlier in the semester, organize a study session a few days before the test. You can test each other and ask questions if you’re not sure about something.

3. ❓ Test-Taking Tips: Different Types of Questions

If your test includes a mix of different question types, make sure you prepare for them, and learn strategies to help you with each one. Even if it’s a learning style test that doesn’t need any real preparation, you still need to know what to expect from it.

The list contains test-taking tips for different question types: multiple choice, short answers, and essay questions.

3.1. Test-taking Tips for a Multiple-choice Test

  • Read the questions carefully. Check whether each asks you to choose one or multiple answers.
  • Try to think of the answer to the question. Do that before looking at the options. It will help you make sure that the other options don’t influence your response.
  • Guess the answers if you’re not sure. Don’t forget to take a little mark next to the question so that you can recheck it if you have time.

3.2. Test-taking Tips for a Short-answer Test

  • Read the questions carefully. Underline the keywords (e.g., define, compare, analyze, argue, etc.).
  • Don’t write more than you need to answer the question. But if you think your answer may not be precise enough, add a little more to make sure that you get your point across.
  • Use the keywords from the question in your answer.

3.2. Test-taking Tips for an Essay Test

  • Read the questions carefully. Then write down a rough outline. It will help you stay on track and avoid including unnecessary information.
  • Answer each of the questions in your first sentence. Then provide supporting evidence to support your answer. Don’t start writing before you have a clear idea of your answer.
  • Start with the most important points first. This is especially important if you’re running out of time.
  • Double-space. You need space to edit your answer afterward if you notice mistakes or want to add something.

4. 🌚 Test-Taking Tips: the Night Before the Test

✔️Prepare your thingsThe night before the test, pack everything you need, so you have less to worry about. Here are some questions that you should ask yourself:
– Do I need a specific type of pencil for multiple-choice questions?
– If I need to use a pencil, have I also packed a sharpener, eraser and spare pencils?
– Do I need to bring any paper?
– If it’s an open book test, have I packed all the books that you might need?
– Do I need a water bottle?
– Do I need a watch?
✔️Double-check the test locationOn the night before the test, double-check that there haven’t been any location changes.
✔️Take care of yourselfDon’t forget to take breaks and take care of yourself. Even if you only have one day until the test, don’t skip meals or pull an all-nighter. You may think that it’s better to spend those extra hours on studying instead of sleeping, but it will most likely only make it more difficult for you to focus during the test. Go to sleep and be confident that you’ve done all that you can. In fact, it is one of the most useful test-taking skills.

5. ✍️ Best Tips for Taking the Test

✔️Arrive earlyYou don’t need the added pressure of worrying about being late, so make sure you arrive early. It will give you more time to fit in some last-minute revision and get your nerves under control.
Walk into the test room with a positive mindset. Take some deep breaths and avoid thinking negative thoughts. You’ve already done everything you can, so now focus on the test.
✔️Check your test paper for missing pagesCheck that you have the right test paper and that you’re not missing any pages. The teacher will most likely tell you to check this before you begin the test. You don’t want to find out that you have missing pages in the middle of the test. Solving this issue would take some time, which would mean you’ll have less time to complete the test.
✔️Write your name on all test papersEven though this seems obvious, you may be so focused on completing the test that you forget to write your name on the sheets. The last thing you want is to finally finish the test only to walk out the door and realize you forgot to write your name.
✔️Read the entire test before you startIt may seem like a waste of time, but here are some reasons why it’s worth it.
– You will have a better idea of what to expect.
– There won’t be any surprises when you start answering questions. For instance, if the question you were dreading is on the test, you’ll know exactly where it is.
– You can manage your time better so that you have enough time to answer all of the questions.
✔️Use your perusal timeHere are some tips to help you make the most of your perusal time.
– Treat it as seriously as you would the rest of the test. It may not seem like much time, but you can still accomplish a lot.
– If, on the actual test, you’re allowed to make notes during perusal time, spend it wisely. For example, after looking through the test, you could use the rest of the time to plan your answers.
– If there is something vital that you think you’ll forget, quickly write it down on the spare paper as soon as perusal time starts. You don’t have to worry that you’ll forget it later.
✔️Carefully read each questionCarefully read the test instructions and questions before you start writing. Only write what you need to answer the question. Don’t waste time writing everything you know about the topic if this is not necessary.
✔️Check the number of marks that each question is worthNot only will this help you to determine which questions will take the most time to answer. It will also help you to structure your answer.
✔️Answer the easiest questions firstThis test-taking strategy will help to build your confidence before you attempt the more difficult questions. Skip questions that you’re struggling with and come back to them later, but try to keep these to a minimum. Make a little mark next to any questions that you skip so that they’re easier to find. You don’t want to waste time searching for them at the end of the test.
✔️Answer every questionAnswer every question, even if you’re not sure about the answer. This way, you still have a chance to get some marks.
✔️Keep an eye on the timeThe teacher may let you know how much time is left every so often, but don’t rely on them. Wearing a watch may come in handy during a test, as you can keep a closer eye on the time.
✔️Use all of the test timeEven if you finish the test before the time is up, don’t just sit there waiting or leave early. Spend the extra time wisely by going back through your answers and checking them. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
– Have you missed any questions?
– Did you misread any questions?
– Is there anything more to add to your answers that you didn’t include the first time?
– Did you proofread your short essay and extended essay answers to fix any spelling or grammatical errors?
If you notice people finishing their tests early and leaving, don’t panic. Just focus on your test.
✔️Don’t be afraid to take a short breakYou may think that taking a short 20-second break is a waste of time during a test, but just having a few seconds more to write won’t matter if the pressure gets to you and makes it difficult to concentrate. If you feel yourself starting to become overwhelmed, take a moment to try to relax. Put down your pen, relax your writing hand, drink some water, and take some deep breaths.
✔️Don’t panic if you forget somethingIf you forget something that you need to remember to answer a question, don’t panic. Just mark it as a question that you’ll come back to later, then move on. You may remember the answer later, or another question in the test may remind you of it.

6. 🔚 Test-Taking Tips: After the Test

  • Take note of how you can improve next time. After the test, while it’s still fresh in your mind, think about what you can do differently next time.
  • Celebrate! After all of that hard work, take some time to relax and celebrate with your friends and family. You may not have much time to celebrate just yet if you have more tests, but remember to take a break before you start preparing for the next one, especially if you have another one the next day.

Good luck with your tests! We hope you found these test-taking tips useful and that they help to reduce some of your stress. If you have any tips to add, please share them in the comments.

🔗 References

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