Unfortunately tests are a part of a studentís life, and in recent years there are more tests than ever thanks to the big push for standardized tests and accountability. These tests, by the way, also test your teachers
, not just you, if that makes you feel any better. But knowing how to take a test is more important than ever, and I donít mean whether or not you know the material covered. Iím talking about do you know how to work through a test correctly.
You should always get a good nightís sleep before a test and if you can study for the test (some you canít), you should review the material for about an hour or so each evening for about a week preceding the test. The more times you see or hear something, the better you retain it, but your brain stores the information at night while you sleep, so short study bursts throughout the week are better than one big all-nighter where youíll forget almost everything you read anyway. Eat a good breakfast the day of the test and dress comfortably in layers.
Listen to Instructions
Be sure to listen to all the instructions for the test, even if they are completely boring. You might only have one shot at asking a question or getting a better understanding of something thatís not clear. Use this time to also calm yourself and remind yourself that youíre going to do fine. Test taking problems have much more to do with anxiety than not being ready for the test.
Read the Question
It seems silly to say, but be sure you read what the question is actually asking you. In math questions especially the test usually has a ton of extra information or you have to do two or three steps to find the answer. I canít tell you how many times Iíve wanted to kick myself for bubbling one thing when the question was really asking me to do one more step to find the REAL answer.
Go with Your Gut Ė Sometimes
If youíve been studying and know the material, your first gut response has pretty significant weight. Most of the time the more you stew about a question the more confused youíll make yourself. When you get to a problem, assuming its not math that has a definite answer you can find using an equation or something, eliminate the obviously wrong answers Ė there will likely be two. Then feel which answer looks better.
Donít just bubble it because you like it though. Go back and prove to yourself that the answer you like is the real one. Sure it takes a little extra time, but better to be right than done first. If you havenít studied and know squat about the material, though, your gut is likely to be wrong as much as it is right.
If you bubble after each question, youíre likely to lose your train of thought or lose momentum. Instead answer all the questions in a group in your test and then bubble in blocks or at the end. For example, answer questions one through ten. Then bubble them in. Bubbling will give you a little break and help you stay focused. Go back and do another ten or twenty and bubble. Sometimes, if youíre in a groove, you can answer all the questions in the test and bubble at the end, just be sure to check and make sure you are bubbling the right answer for the right question.
Check It Over
This is the step that is most often skipped and it can hurt you in a big way. Your first check should be that youíve answered and bubbled all the questions. Then you should spot check to be sure your bubbles match the answers you chose for the questions. If your bubbles got off, go back and fix them.
Finally, you can rework the test to be sure all your answers are correct, but the most important ones to check are the questions you struggled with early on. It may be that your brain is in gear at the end of the test and can find the answer you couldnít find an hour or two before. But be careful, if you start changing a bunch of answers after the fact, you might be overthinking some of the questions. Prove the answer is right and move on to the next one.
If You Stall
It happens to everyone. When you stall out on a test and just canít get over that mental hump, find a way to fix it. Here are a few ideas that have worked to get me back on track:
- Eat a snack if youíre allowed to.
- Go to the bathroom and walk the long way around to get the blood flowing.
- Close your eyes and relax your shoulders to give yourself a break.
- Take a few deep breaths and give yourself a mental pep talk.
- Skip to the end of the test and answer a few questions you know.
- See if you can find hints to the answers you don't know in other questions.
- Close the test, count to ten, open it and start again.
- As a final resort you can always guess.