This is it – test time is here! Whether you’ve studied diligently and feel highly confident about comprehending the subject matter, or you crammed the night before, or you just didn’t study at all – your chances of improving your test score can probably be helped by using the following top 10 proven test strategies:
1. Get a good night sleep beforehand! Brain function is always better on a full night’s rest. And don’t forget to eat something protein-rich beforehand.
2. Relaxation is key when taking an exam. Get to the testing site early so you can pick the desk or area most comfortable to you, and make sure you have the proper pens, pencils, paper, computer etc. so you can focus.
3. Survey the entire test. Try to get a feel for the level of difficulty of it, and whether or not you’d be best served completing portions you feel more comfortable with first. This way, if you don’t have consistent confidence in all parts of the test, you can rest assured you will not have to race to write down the answers you do know after struggling with those you don’t.
4. Take a few deep breaths and stretch your muscles (in fact, try to stretch your entire body before sitting down). The oxygen this provides to your brain and muscles will help you retrieve information more easily, and will help you sort through information more quickly. It will also keep you from getting tense, which sometimes makes questions or instructions sound more difficult than they really are.
5. Read the test directions twice, even if you are positive you understood the first time. It doesn’t take that much time, and you will avoid realizing you are – for example – writing a two-paragraph essay answer as opposed to a two-sentence answer!
6. If there are details which were more difficult to memorize, for example, the order of the planets in the solar system, quickly “mind dump” them down on a piece of scratch paper or the margins so you can refer to it during the test, and to clear your mind for less extraneous thinking.
7. Take advantage of long-held assumptions about multiple-choice questions, if that’s part of your test. Try to supply your own answer before looking at the options below the question. If the “right” answer doesn’t jump out at you, remember that statements that begin with “absolutes,” like “always,” ”never,” “none,” and “except” are the least likely to be the answer.
8. Mark an answer for every question, whether you know it or not. Again, take advantage of long-held assumptions about multiple choices, if you don’t know the answer. Remember that if two choices are similar, they are both probably (though not always) incorrect. If two choices are opposites, choose on of them.
9. When it comes to answering essay questions, remember that the idea is not to test what information you can “dump” onto the page, but how well you can explain and support an idea. Read all the essay questions first, then for each one (if you’re allowed to mark your test) be sure to underline the “directional” word, like “define,” “compare,” “explain” etc. so you don’t miss the whole point of the essay. Outline key words, ideas and phrases before writing it in full; this will help to keep you on track and minimize the time needed to write it, giving you more time to review and polish.
10. Check on your time limitations every so often. This will ensure that you take the time to complete the test portions that hold the highest point value, and those you can answer the most competently, if not the entire test.