15 Steps for Test Success
- Keep up with reading assignments so that studying will mean reviewing familiar material. Frantic last-minute cramming of new material results in faulty understanding, poor recall and low exam grades.
- Complete long term papers or projects well in advance of scheduled exams so that your time will be free for intensive reviewing.
- Ask the professor what will be covered on an exam: chapters, lab experiments, lectures, outside readings, etc. Ask questions about confusing material during class discussion, a professor's office hours or after class with a classmate or tutor. You can't remember what you don't understand.
- Plan the time you will spend preparing for the exam; to minimize mental and physical fatigue, plan a five- or ten-minute break each hour.
- To avoid re-reading text assignments, prepare them for review as you read by underlining key words and phrases or taking notes on major ideas.
- Review each course once a week throughout the semester: re-read class notes, reading notes, textbook underlining and marginalia, problems solved, etc.
- Keep, correct and review all returned quizzes, tests and papers. See the professor if you are unsure of correct answers to the questions you missed.
- Study the professor's test technique to know what kind of objective questions he or she favors and what sort of essay answer is expected.
- Prepare a list of likely test questions; turn statements in texts and your notes into questions. Actually answer each question in your own words.
- Concentrate on recalling specific details (who, where, when) to prepare for an objective test; focus on broad concepts for an essay exam.
- Reorganize your material to re-process and reinforce effectively. This may require rewriting, which can be an excellent memory aid. For example, if your history notes are arranged chronologically, rearrange them by cause and effect, problem and solution or biographically. Rearrange math notes by terminology, general principles, definitions or kinds of examples given.
- Change your point of view for deeper understanding and better recall. If you have memorized facts, look now at their application. If you have been studying Jung's and Freud's psychoanalytic theories, analyze a myth or fairy tale from a Jungian or Freudian viewpoint.
- Review likely test questions (from step 9) with other people in groups of two to four after each person has first studied independently. Test each other, then correct and perfect answers using textbook and pooled lecture notes.
- For problem-solving tests, review by memorizing formulas and equations you will need before working numerous examples of each kind of problem likely to appear on the test. Study groups are particularly useful; check each other's work to clarify your own understanding of the process used for each problem.
- You will be able to recall more and think logically if you get enough sleep the night before the test. All-night cramming can backfire by causing your overtired body and mind to "go blank" during an exam. Research shows a minimum of four hours sleep plus a protein meal produces the best results.
Before the Test
- Approach the test confidently. Remember to review.
- Don't cram.
- Be careful of your diet and sleep - especially as the test draws near.
- Arrive on time ... and ready.
- Choose a good seat. Get comfortable and relax.
- Bring the complete kit of "tools" you'll need.
- Avoid sharing ideas with other students at the last minute.
- Listen carefully to all directions.
During the Test
- Read all directions carefully - twice if necessary.
- Pay attention to the scoring plan.
- Look over the whole test before answering any questions.
- Start right in and stay with it. Apportion your time with an "exam budget." Use every second effectively.
- Do the easy questions first.
- Read each question carefully. Make sure you understand each one before you answer. Re-read, if necessary.
- Think! Avoid hurried answers. Guess intelligently.
- Get all the help you can from "cue" words and phrases.
- Rephrase difficult questions to yourself. Watch out for "spoilers."
- Use controlled association to see the relation of one question to another, with as many important ideas as you can develop.
- Now that you're a "cool" test-taker, stay calm and confident throughout the test. Don't let anything throw you.
- Edit, check and proofread your answers. Be a "bitter ender." Stay working until they make you go.
Take the Pledge!
Raise your right hand and repeat after me:
"I promise never again to change an answer on a test unless I am absolutely sure."
This promise can gain you hundreds of points over your College career!