Twenty (+) test taking tips

Updated: Jun 7

Just in time for pumpkin spice season or, more importantly, midterm season, are some test prep tips to help you as you get ready. Welcome to part 3 of the keep calm and study on series, where today we cover test prep tips, tips to help you the day of a test, and tips for test reflection. Here we go!

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Let's start with a why. Why do we need tests and exams anyway?

Providing an assessment like a test or exam shows what you have learned. You can be assessed in other ways, for example, through a paper, project, portfolio of work, etc. Please keep in mind that tests do not always reflect the whole picture - they only show a limited amount of information on any given day. Therefore, you should not focus on learning the content of your classes just for the tests; you should focus on learning it throughout the entire class. Friends, it is much easier to succeed on test day if you plant the seeds early. As professors, we don't want you to fail. We aren't out to get you. We want to support you in the best way possible, so stop by our office hours, engage in conversation, ask questions, participate, and learn.


Before the test - prep for success.

Remember, we just said that the seeds of success are sown earlier than the test. Remember to

  • Attend class

  • Engage in the content by asking questions and taking notes.

  • Stay up to date on lectures, notes, assignments, and presentations. Double-check the assignment due dates and rubrics.

  • Stop by during office hours and ask questions.

Now it's time for some study strategies

  • News flash - cramming doesn't work!

  • Aim for short study sessions

  • Give yourself time to schedule and stick to it - frequent and brief study sessions (45 mins to an hour do it often)

  • Be prepared enough that you don't have to study on test day

  • Make a study guide by organizing your notes

  • Don't underestimate the power of Flashcards; it reinforces repetition

  • Try out Blooket or Quizlet to make digital flashcards

  • Review past quizzes to make testing decisions

  • Identify what you are going to be asked on the test and ask the professor

  • Get a study group together and study

  • Take study breaks!

  • But don't binge Gilmore girls or go down the scroll hole

  • Set a timer

The day of the test has arrived.

It's the day of the test, and priority number one is to take care of yourself. Be sure to get enough sleep, eat something to fuel your body, and move your body to get the blood flowin'. Practice positive self-talk to get into the right mindset. Consider a mantra such as, "I got this," or "I'm prepared for this test. I studied hard."

Once you have your test before you, here are some tips to help you. First of all, breathe. You prepared for this exam. Be sure to write down your name and read the instructions carefully.

  • When reading the question, read it carefully and underline important information. What is the question asking? Do you understand all parts of the question?

  • Do a quick scan of the test to get a feel for it so you can budget enough time to answer the questions.

  • Brain dump - write down everything you know, like formulas or critical concepts.

  • Answer easy questions to build your confidence

  • Take all time allotted to take your test. There is no prize for the person who gets it done first.

  • If you can't figure out a question, circle it, skip it for now, and come back to it.

  • Try not to leave anything blank - put something down, take the best guest.

  • Keep making progress and make small steps towards completing the test. Don't get stuck on one question. Remember to circle it, and come back to it.

Multiple choice test

  • Please read it carefully

  • Look for important words

  • Don't look at the choices right away - can you know the answer before seeing it?

  • Read all answer choices before making a selection

  • Eliminate one or two if you can if you are stuck on an answer

  • If any two options are opposite, at least one can be eliminated

True / false

  • Qualifiers such as often, sometimes, a few often indicate true answers

Objective test (ex. Math)

  • Go back to prep and understand the materials

  • Note every step in the process of solving the problem

  • Write enough info that you can recreate it at home

  • Keep a list of significant concepts and formulas

  • Take old quizzes and homework questions

  • Repetition of problem-solving

  • Understand relationships

  • Show your work. Perhaps you will get partial credit.

Essay tests

  • Focus on clarity and efficiency, precision and detail

  • Read the question carefully (explain, describe, compare, contrast)

  • Organize your thoughts and outline their intro, body, paragraphs, and conclusion

  • Keep all parts clear.

  • Be specific and detailed.

  • Topic sentences are key. Begin every paragraph with clear, concise topics that declares the point you will prove in this paragraph.

  • Connect your evidence back to your argument

  • Be as specific as you can with evidence. Remember this formula.

  • Introduce evidence, offer evidence, analyze and evidence to prove an argument.

  • A conclusion like an intro doesn't need to be lengthy or flashy- a sentence will do. Use it to answer the so what question. What is the significance of the argument?

  • Go back and re-read it!

After the test

  • You did it!

  • No matter the outcome - Respond with grace and humility

  • Don't just shove it away in a folder, never to be seen again. Reflect!

  • Self-talk - don't be negative

  • What can you do better?

  • Reflect on how your study habits are

  • Use it as an opportunity to do better for next time

  • What did you know

  • What did you do well

  • What didn't go so well

  • What can you address for next time?

  • Reflect on your study skills


Happy testing! Share your best test taking strategy below.
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