Preparation for Tests
Organization, planning and time management are skills essential to becoming a
successful student; so start studying as soon as classes begin. Read
assignments, listen during lectures and take good classroom notes. Then,
reread the assignment, highlighting important information to study. Reviewing
regularly allows you to avoid cramming and reduces test anxiety. The biggest
benefit is it gives you time to absorb information.
Read difficult assignments twice. Sometimes a second reading will clarify
concepts. If you are having difficulty with a subject, get help immediately.
Meet with your instructor after school.
REVIEW, REVIEW, REVIEW
Plan ahead, scheduling review periods well in advance. Set aside one hour on
a Saturday or Sunday to review several subjects. Keep your reviews short and
do them often.
* Daily reviews--Conduct short before and after class reviews of lecture
notes. Begin reviewing after your first day of class.
* Weekly reviews--Dedicate about 1 hour per subject to review assigned
reading and lecture notes.
* Major reviews--Start the week before an exam and study the most difficult
subjects when you are the most alert. Study for 2 to 5 hours punctuated by
Create review tools, such as flashcards, chapter outlines and summaries. This
helps you organize and remember information as well as condense material to a
manageable size. Use 3 x 5 cards to review important information. Write
ideas, formulas, concepts and facts on cards to carry with you. Study on the
bus, in waiting rooms or whenever you have a few extra minutes.
Another useful tool is a study checklist. Make a list of everything you need
to know for the exam. The list should include a brief description of reading
assignments, types of problems to solve, skills to master, major ideas,
theories, definitions, and equations. When you begin your final study
sessions, cross off items as you review them.
For some subjects, study groups are an effective tool. Study groups allow
students to combine resources; members share an academic goal and provide
support and encouragement. Such groups meet regularly to study and learn a
To form a study group, look for dedicated students--students who ask and
answer questions in class, and who take notes. Suggest to two or three that
you meet to talk about group goals, meeting times and other logistics.
Effective study groups are limited to five or six people. Test the group
first by planning a one-time-only session. If that works, plan another. After
several successful sessions, schedule regular meetings.
Set an agenda for each meeting to avoid wasting time. List the material that
will be reviewed so members can come prepared. Also, follow a format. For
example, begin by comparing notes to make sure you all heard the same thing
and recorded important information. Spend 15-20 minutes conducting open-ended
discussions on specific topics. Then, test each other by asking questions or
take turns explaining concepts. Set aside 5-10 minutes to brainstorm possible
TAKING AN EXAM
On exam day arrive early and get organized. Pay attention to verbal
directions as tests are distributed. Read directions slowly. Scan the entire
test, noticing how many points each part is worth and estimate the time
needed for individual questions. Before you start answering questions, write
down memory aids, formulas, equations, facts and other useful information in
Check the time and pace yourself. If you get stuck on a question try to
remember a related fact. Start from the general and go to the specific. Look
for answers in other test questions. Often a term, name, date or other fact
you have forgotten will appear somewhere else in the test. Move on to the
next question if memory aids do not help. You can always go back to the
question if you have time.
TEST-TAKING TIPS FOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF EXAMS
* Multiple Choice--Check the directions to see if the questions call for more
than one answer. Answer each question in your head before you look at the
possible answers. If you can come up with the answer before you look at the
choices you eliminate the possibility of being confused by them. Mark
questions you can't answer immediately and come back to them later.
When taking a multiple-choice exam guess only if you are not penalized for
incorrect answers. Use the following guidelines to make educated guesses.
- If two answers are similar, except for one or two words, choose one of
- If the answer calls for a sentence completion, eliminate the answers that
would not form grammatically correct sentences.
- If answers cover a wide range (5, 76, 87, 109, 500) choose a number in the
For machine-graded multiple-choice tests be certain that the answer you mark
corresponds to the question you are answering. Check the test booklet against
the answer sheet whenever you start a new section and again at the top of
* True-false--If any part of a true-false statement is false, the answer is
false. Look for key words, i.e., qualifiers like all, most, sometimes, never
or rarely. Questions containing absolute qualifiers such as always or never
often are false.
* Open book--When studying for this type of test, write down any formulas you
will need on a separate sheet. Place tabs on important pages of the book so
that you don't have to waste time looking for tables or other critical
information. If you plan to use your notes, number them and make a table of
contents. Prepare thoroughly for open-book tests. They are often the most
* Short answer/fill-in-the-blank--These tests require students to provide
definitions or short descriptions (typically a few words or a sentence or
two). Study using flashcards with important terms and phrases. Key words and
facts will then be familiar and easy to remember as you answer test
* Essay--When answering an essay question, first decide precisely what the
question is asking. If a question asks you to compare, do not explain.
Standard essay question words are listed next. Look up any unfamiliar words
in a dictionary.
Verbs Commonly Used in Essay Questions--Analyze, Compare, Contrast,
Criticize, Define, Describe, Discuss, Enumerate, Evaluate, Examine, Explain,
Illustrate, Interpret, List, Outline, Prove, State, Summarize.
Before you write your essay, make a quick outline. There are three reasons
for doing this. First, your thoughts will be more organized (making it easier
for your teacher to read), and you will be less likely to leave out important
facts. Second, you will be able to write faster. Third, if you do not have
time to finish your answer, you may earn some points with the outline. Don't
forget to leave plenty of space between answers. You can use the extra space
to add information if there is time.
When you write, get to the point. Start off by including part of the question
in your answer. For example, if the question asks, "Discuss the benefits and
drawbacks of universal health care coverage to both patients and medical
professionals." Your first sentence might read, "Universal health care will
benefit patients in the following ways." Expand your answer with supporting
ideas and facts. If you have time, review your answers for grammatical
errors, clarity and legibility.
It all starts with MOTIVATION to do your best.
Take a look at these tips on "motivation" from The University of Texas.
Who you are is more valuable than what you do. Your worth as a person is not
based on your intelligence, your grades, how hard you work. It is enough to
Respect and value the opinions of others - but realize that ultimately you
must respect and satisfy yourself.
Practice impulse control by imagining the consequences of your actions. How
will you feel afterwards? Then, act so that you will be satisfied with
Write out a plan for yourself. Jot down personal and academic goals and
priorities, and reread them when you're in a slump.
Don't worry about or dwell on things that go wrong. Concentrate on your
successes. Remember that little successes build up just as quickly as little
Give yourself time to change. Forgive yourself for backsliding and making
Don't be a perfectionist. Make approaching your goals the basis of your self-
respect rather than reaching your goals.
Don't allow feelings of inadequacy to get you down. Think about all the
things you do have going for you.
If you're feeling down or hopeless, imagine the worst that could happen -
exaggerate your fantasies - and then laugh at them. Do this to put yourself
and your current situation in perspective.
When you're down, go to someone you know cares for you and ask him or her to
give you a "pep talk," reminding you of your good qualities and talents and
abilities and/or make a list of your good qualities and read them when you
Be willing to risk failure for something you really care about. Be willing to
risk success, too!
If you're irrationally afraid of something, do it a lot; the fear will wear
Learn to recognize, sooner, events which are not turning out as they should -
and act to redirect them to your satisfaction.
Start early. The sooner you start, the sooner you'll be free to do other
activities, the less worry you'll experience, the more time you'll have to
recover from mistakes and wrong directions.
Expect a certain amount of tension. Use that tension as energy to get
Different people have different styles of working. For example, some people
need competition to do their best, while others work better at their own
pace. Respect your work style and arrange the conditions you need to do well.
If you have a long, hard task, make it as comfortable for you as possible. Do
it in short bits (but stay with it), do it wearing comfortable clothes, among
friends, in familiar surroundings, with whatever you need to keep your
spirits up while you work at it.
Pure, unadulterated motivation is rare (most of the time); you just have to
keep plugging away.
If necessary, pause every now and then to remind yourself why you have chosen
to take on certain work, what you expect to get out of it. Give yourself a
When you've done something you feel good about, reward yourself with a treat:
you deserve it!
Completed tasks keep interest and motivation at a higher level. Try to
complete a task, accomplish a sub-goal, before you quit for the day.
More information on Study Strategies.