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Test-taking strategies

These twelve tips will help you get through any test and as long as you prepared adequately for it, you will certainly get an A.

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Come to the test prepared and feeling confident that you know the material. Make sure that you are not very hungry or very full and that you are well-rested. Avoid eating sugary or processed foods before the test. Avoid items such as candy, carbonated soft drinks, junk foods, and fried foods. Snack on fresh fruit or veggies immediately before to get your mind off the test and give you some sustenance.

Breathe. Relax. Imagine yourself acing the test. It is amazing what a little positive imagery can do for you.

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Read ALL of the directions carefully. Reread them again once you have finished. Look through the test to see what types of questions are asked, how many questions, if there are any major essays if you have choices about questions that you can answer, etc. Make sure you know how much each section is worth so you can budget your time.

If the test involves specific equations, conversions, dates, or anything else that you must memorize, write it on the top or margin of the test paper as soon as the test is handed out. Remembering complicated equations and dates before you have answered any questions is a lot easier than trying to remember them after you have answered half of the test questions and your brain is starting to get tired.

Answer all the easy questions first. This will help you get into the test-taking mood and build confidence. Circle the numbers of the questions that you really have no idea about. You can come back to these later. Often times questions you answer later in the test might trigger something and help you answer a question that you were previously stuck on.

Time to hit the books
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Narrow multiple choice answers down to the two you believe might be correct by crossing off the ones you positively know are not correct. This will improve your chances of guessing the right one.

True-False questions are often a favorite of some teachers and can be quite complicated at times. Keep in mind that every part of a true-false statement must be true in order to answer it as true. If any part is false, mark the entire statement false. You may want to underline the portion of the statement that you believe is false. If there are negatives in the statement such as ‘no or not’, and you are still not sure whether to mark it true or false, try re-reading the question without the ‘no or not’. Decide if this statement is true or false then answer the opposite on your test. Words indicating absoluteness (never, always, entirely, every, only, none) often tend to be used in false statements.

Try to construct concise answers that target the question and prove to the teacher that you know the material. Get right to the point in the first sentence or two of your answer. The rest of the answer should contain proof that you know what you are talking about. Give enough evidence to support your thoughts but don’t over-answer the question. Writing a lot of fluff will usually leave the teacher thinking that you are writing for the sake of filling the space and that you really don’t have a good handle on the correct answer.

Before you begin writing an essay, make sure you know exactly what the question is asking. Try to restate the question in your own words. If you can’t do this with confidence, make a quick visit to the teacher and have him/her clarify it for you. Once confident in what the question is asking, take a few moments to get your thoughts together and write some notes in the margin, or even create an outline on scrap paper if you have time.

Man in a watch typing
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If you find that you are running short on time and still have some open-ended questions left to answer, write something rather than leaving the space blank. Create a brief outline to show the teacher that you do know the answer, but you didn’t have enough time to write an entire essay. You may be able to get say more in an outline form than you can if you were only able to write a few opening sentences of your essay. Partial credit is better than no credit at all.

Once you believe you are finished with the test, reread everything again to be sure that you answered every question fully and completely. If you have time, cover up your answers with your hand or another sheet of paper and ask yourself what answer you would give if you had to answer the question again. Compare this answer with what you have already written down. Only change the original answer if you find that you made a silly mistake or originally misinterpreted the question. It is usually best to go with your original instinct when you are truly unsure of an answer.

Be neat. The last thing a teacher wants to do while correcting mounds of tests is to spend time deciphering what a student has illegibly written.

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