Test-taking Strategies

Getting an “A” on an exam takes work, but it’s not impossible! Studying a little bit every day can mean the difference between a positive, relaxed test-taking experience, and an exhausting, worry-filled encounter. Here are some tips:

Review Regularly

Make class attendance a ritual. Be on time and prepared. If you’re not in class, you won’t have anything to review.
Daily — reviewing small bits of information daily, even for just 15 minutes, helps clarify facts and reinforce material.
Weekly — reviewing each course’s material at the end of each week helps to develop the bigger picture.
Crunch Time — spending larger amounts of time each day (at least an hour) studying the course materials will help prevent potential cramming the night before the exam.

Use Tools

Study checklists — use the margins of your notes to identify important topics with a one- to two-word phrase.
Flash cards — create a visual tool to show relationships of main ideas and supporting information.
Homework assignments — doing homework will make you familiar with material that you’re likely to be tested on later.
Textbook study aides — use additional information located in the back of each chapter, on the textbook’s website, or on any CD-ROMs provided with the book.


Ask faculty what to expect. They can tell you the format of the exam and the time limitations so you can plan your study technique.
Plan a study group. Be sure to select people who are as equally dedicated to earning an “A” as you are and will help you stay on task.
Take advantage of any tutoring opportunities.
Do a test run. Develop your own test based on the material you feel will be covered. Give yourself an hour, turn off your phone, and test yourself.

On Test Day

Eat a balanced diet and get plenty of sleep the day before the test.
Arrive early to avoid panic. Wait outside the room until the instructor arrives.
Choose a good seat.
Get comfortable and relax.
Bring the complete tool kit: scantron, pencils, etc.
Read all the directions carefully. Pay particular attention to the scoring plan.
Make sure directions are clear — ask questions of your instructor if unsure of something.
Approach the test confidently and calmly.
Jot down memory aids, charts, dates or formulas before the test begins.
Look over the whole test before answering any questions.
Do the easy questions first. Postpone harder questions until you’ve completed all the questions you feel you can answer correctly.
Read each question carefully. Make sure you understand each one before you answer.
Think! Avoid hurried answers. Rule out incorrect answers.
Watch your time. Balance the time you devote to each question or section.
Refresh yourself with a few, well-chosen rest periods during the test.
Look for relationships between questions — some questions might give you clues to others.
Edit, check and proofread your answers. Be a “bitter ender.” Stay working until they make you go!

Tips for Multiple Choice Questions

Look for similar answers; one of them is usually the correct response.
Recognize that when the answers are all numbers, the highest and lowest numbers are usually incorrect.
Read all options before selecting your answer.
The longest answer is often correct.
Recognize that a joke is usually wrong.
If you cannot answer a question, move on to the next one and continue through the test; another question may trigger the answer you missed.
Ask yourself these questions:
  • Can you choose more than one answer? Which one is the best possible choice?
  • Is there a word or phrase that makes one or more of the answers invalid?
  • Can you eliminate some of the possible answers because they are obviously incorrect?

Tips for True-False Questions

Look for qualifiers, such as “some,” “few,” “many” and “often,” which may indicate a statement is true.
Look for qualifiers, such as “never,” “all,” “every” and “only,” which may indicate a statement is false.
Read each statement for double negatives, such as “not untruthful.”
If any part of a statement is false, the entire statement is false.
Answer each question unless there is a penalty for guessing.

Tips for Short Answer Questions

Concentrate on key words or facts.
Pay close attention to the word immediately preceding the blank; if the word is “an,” give a response that begins with vowel (a, e, i, o, u).
Be brief in your response.
Remember, your initial response is usually correct.
Never assume that the length of the blank has anything to do with the length of the answer.

Tips for Essay Questions

Make sure you understand the question.
Look for words like compare, contrast, define, explain, interpret, summarize, etc.
Make a quick outline to organize your thoughts and write a thesis statement.
Include the question in the answer and expand on the topic with solid points.
Write legibly and only on one side of the paper.
Review answers for grammar, spelling, legibility and clarity.

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