Test Taking Strategies

Organizing for Tests

  • Begin reviewing early. This will give your brain time to get comfortable with the information.
  • Conduct short daily review sessions. You can ease into more intense review sessions prior to major exams.
  • Read text assignments before lectures. This will help identify concepts the professor considers important.
  • Review notes immediately after lectures. This will help identify information that you do not understand while the lecture is still fresh. You may also want to re-read or annotate the texts after the lecture.
  • Create review tools. Tools can include checklists, mind maps, predicted test questions, flashcards, and textbook CD’s or practice tests. 
  • Review with a group. This will enable you to cover important material that you may overlook on your own.
  • Conduct a major review early enough. Allow for a visit to the instructor if necessary.
  • Break up the study tasks into manageable pieces. Study while you are mentally alert.
  • Study the most difficult material when you’re alert.
  • Don’t just cram the night before an exam.
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before an exam.
  • Don’t go to the exam with an empty stomach. Eat healthy food.
  • If you need help in a subject area, consider getting a tutor or ask for help from your instructor or classmates.

Anticipating Test Content

  • Pay particular attention to any study guides that the instructor hands out in class.
  • Pay attention to points the instructor brings up during class lectures just prior to the exam.
  • Generate a list of possible questions you would ask if you were making the exam, then see if you can answer the questions.
  • Review previous tests graded by the instructor.
  • Confer with other students to predict what will be on the test.

Guidelines for Multiple Choice Questions

  • Eliminate options you know to be incorrect.
  • Cover up the answers – read and answer the main question then review your choices
  • Give each option of a question the “true-false” test. 
  • Question options that grammatically don’t fit with the stem.
  • Question options that are totally unfamiliar to you.
  • Question options that contain negative or absolute words. Try substituting a qualified term for the absolute one, like frequently for always; or typical for every to see if you can eliminate it.
  • “All of the Above”: If you know two of the three options seem correct, “all of the above” is usually a strong possibility.
  • Look alike options: Probably one is correct. Choose the best, but eliminate choices that mean basically the same thing and thus cancel each other out. 
  • Double negatives: Create the equivalent positive statement and consider.
  • Echo options: If two options are opposite each other, chance are one of them is correct.
  • Favor options that contain qualifiers. The result is longer, more inclusive items that better fill the role of the answer.
  • If two alternatives seem correct: Compare them for differences, then refer to the stem to find you best answer. 

Guidelines for Essay Questions

  • Organize your thoughts before you begin to write. A short outline will improve your answer. Write the topics and key introductory words.
  • It can be helpful to memory “dump” any information you have at the beginning of the exam.
  • Paraphrase the original question to form your introductory statement. The process helps you get the question straight in your mind.
  • Use the principles of English composition. Form a clear thesis statement (statement of purpose) and place it as near to the beginning as possible. 
  • Write clearly! Teachers need to be able to read it. 
  • Use lists or bullets wherever possible. Numbers or bullets allow teachers to easily see your points.
  • Identify the verbs or words in the question that give you direction. Key words in each question describe the task you are expected to complete.