Testing Tips

Prior to the Exam

Prepare for the Exam
  • Make certain you know what you will be tested over (chapters, concepts, main points).
  • Study course materials (i.e. books, notes, videos, study guide).
  • Ask your professor for clarification on any material you do not understand.
  • Plan ahead! Students are most successful when they study a little bit each night. Remember, you’re really preparing for the next exam everyday!
Study Efficiently and Effectively
  • Read actively—prioritize information as you go over it. (Making choices forces you to compare and contrast). Then later you can “hit the high spots”.
  • Chunk information—humans can remember on average about 7 (plus or minus 2) bits of information. Which is why phone numbers are the length they are. The trick is the “bits” can be any length. So chunk smaller bits into a single bit easier to remember.
  • Use a bit of information in 5 to 6 different ways and it will be yours for life. So define a term, find a simile, find an opposite, use it in a sentence, find the etymology of the word, work it into a conversation and create a metaphor for it.
  • Manage your alertness level so it is at the best point for thinking on the exam. Get sleep so you aren’t dazed. Walk around if you are feeling tense. Don’t listen to last minute crammers if you are anxious. (Or if you are too relaxed, do some cramming yourself to get your excitement level up). It’s like doing warm-ups for sprints—get yourself to the best physiological state.
  • Recite the information: Reciting small bits of information until you’re sick of them will help put them into your long term memory.
  • Relax: You won’t test well if you’re too tense.

Testing Strategies

  • ALWAYS READ INSTRUCTIONS FIRST. Glance over the entire test, noting which sections should take more time.
  • Answer easiest, shortest questions first.
  • Answer multiple-choice, true-false, and fill-in-the-blank questions next.
  • Answer short answer questions and essay questions last.
  • Pace yourself.
  • Leave plenty of space between your answers.
  • Use your first instinct.
  • If you have time, go back and double-check your answers prior to submitting your exam.

Different Types of Tests

True-False Questions
  • Read the question carefully and critically assess what the statement says.
  • Look for qualifiers (such as “all,” “most,” “never,” “sometimes,” “always,” or “rarely”). These are key words. Absolute qualifiers such as “always” or “never” may indicate a false statement.
Multiple Choice Questions
  • Answer questions in your head first, before looking at answers on test.
  • Mark questions you can’t answer immediately, and come back for them if you have time.
  • DO NOT stop at the first item that “sounds good”. If you are having trouble telling the difference between the choices on many multiple choice test items, then you have not learned the material at the right level for the class. Learning comes in “levels”. For example, the most superficial is knowing that a machine is a bicycle. Another level is being able to describe how the bicycle moves. A deeper level is being able to sit on the bicycle and move. An even deeper level is explaining the role of the bicycle in health and fitness. An even deeper level is being able to evaluate the impact of the bicycle on the environmental system. And a very deep level is being able to use the bicycle to create something no one has seen before, a bicycle ballet or a water pumping system. Most college work involves learning at least at the level of riding the bicycle but you may only be studying at the recognition level.
  • Don’t change your response from the first choice you pick unless you realize you have misread the item. Research shows that your first choice is more often the right one (it is information bubbling up from your brain).
Machine Graded Tests
  • Be careful that the answer you mark corresponds to the question you are answering.
  • Check the number of the question against the number you are marking on the answer sheet whenever you switch sections and again at the top of each column.
  • Watch for stray marks.
Open Book Tests
  • If given a choice, vote against them! They are usually much harder than closed-book exams.
  • There will not be time to look up each question, so prepare adequately even though it is “open-book.”
  • Write any formulas/basic information you will need on a separate sheet.
  • Use tape tabs (post-it notes, paper clips) to indicate important pages.
  • If using your notes, number the pages and prepare a table of contents.
Essay Questions
  • Read questions carefully and thoroughly .
  • Assess what is being asked. Many essay questions have multiple parts. It helps to break the question apart into sub-questions that must be answered. This will help you make sure you have answered the question in its entirety.
  • Read the essays first, then as you answer multiple choice questions see if there are clues to help you with the essay questions.
  • A common pitfall when taking essay exams is not writing enough. Practice actually helps. Create essay questions from your course material and write answers to them.
  • Review your answers for grammatical errors, clarity and legibility if you have time.

Other Hints

  1. Write as clearly as you can. If necessary use blank lines between sections, write within the margins and use only one side of the paper – do what you need to in order to make your writing legible. If your teacher can’t read what you wrote, then credit cannot be assigned.
  2. Consider using a pen, as they produce more readable writing in most cases.
  3. When possible, write on one side of the page only. Writing often bleeds through and obscures the writing on the other side, making it difficult to read.
  4. Trust yourself: If you have studied effectively, then trust that the information will emerge if you give it time and context. Start writing/responding, reflecting on questions and let the information emerge.
  5. Never leave a question blank—you will surely earn nothing. It is better to guess and hope that your brain will pull out some piece that is connected.