Strategies for Success
Always bring more than one sharpened No. 2 pencil to the test site. Answer the easy questions first, then go back to the more difficult ones. If possible, try to save some time at the end of the examination to review your answers to the hard questions and to check your answer sheet to be sure you have not missed any questions.
Become familiar with the test that you are about to take, and have a mental plan for how you will spend your time most productively during the examination. If you follow a positive plan of action as you take the test, you will be less likely to feel helpless or to be preoccupied with anxious thoughts.
At the Starting Line
Listen carefully to directions. Make a point to listen closely to any test directions that are read aloud. Read through written directions at least twice before starting on a test section to ensure that you do not misinterpret them. If you are confused or unsure of the test directions, ask the teacher or test proctor to explain or clarify them. It is better to seek help to clear up any confusion that you may have than to run the risk of misunderstanding the directions and completing test items incorrectly.
Perform a “brain dump.” At the start of the test, write down on a sheet of scrap paper any facts or key information that you are afraid you might forget. This “brain dump” will help you to feel less anxious about forgetting important content. Plus, you can consult this sheet of information as a convenient reference during the test.
Preview the test. Look over the sections of the test. Think about the total amount of time that you have to complete the test. Look at the point values that you can earn on each section of the examination. Budget your total time wisely so that you don't spend too much time on test sections that contribute few points to your score.
Don't get sidetracked looking for patterns of answers. Some people claim that students can do better on multiple-choice tests if they look for patterns in the answers. Most likely, there are no patterns, and looking for them will be counterproductive.
Remember not to rush. On multiple-choice items, force yourself to read each possible choice carefully before selecting an answer. Remember, some choices appear correct at first glance but turn out to be wrong when you take a closer look.
Underline key terms. Before writing your essay, it is a good idea to underline important terms that appear in the test question as a check on your understanding. Words such as “compare,” “contrast,” “discuss,” and “summarize” will give you clear direction on the form that your essay should take and the content that it should include.
Outline your answer before you write it. No teacher wants to read a rambling essay that fails to answer the test question. You can improve the quality of your essay by first organizing your thoughts into a brief outline on scrap paper before you write it. Even a few short minutes of planning time can significantly improve the readability and organization of your essays.
Nearing the Finish Line
Skip difficult items until last. On timed tests, you should avoid getting bogged down on difficult items that can cause you to use up all of your time. Instead, when you find yourself stumped on a tough test item, skip it and go on to other problems. After you have finished all of the easiest test items, you can return to any skipped questions and try to answer them.
If you finish a test early, use the remaining time to check your answers. On multiple choice items, check to see that you answered all questions. Reread each written response to make sure that it makes sense, uses correct grammar, and fully answers the question.