The Best Test-Taking Tips and Strategies

Updated: Nov 1, 2016

The Best Test-Taking Tips and Strategies

Of all the stressors that come with earning a degree in higher education, taking a test – or exam, rather – often causes the most stress. Tests are rarely simple, most always a challenge, and, worst of all, the student hardly knows what to expect – even those who have done their work, studied hard and prepared well for the exam. The key to successful test taking, however, is preparation and avoiding carelessness when taking the test.


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Taking a test demonstrates the student’s ability to understand their course material and use that knowledge in a pragmatic way. There are two kinds of tests: objective tests –true/false, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank; and subjective tests – short answer, essay, oral exams.

Regardless of the student, their approach to taking tests, intelligence, skill level, or if they have a proclivity for performing well on tests, here are a few suggestions for the student who wishes to excel on tests.

Test-Taking Tips and Strategies

Improve test-taking abilities by looking at old tests. When preparing for any test, the student should review previously taken tests to be aware of areas that may require more attention. Each test a student takes in some way prepares them for the next – especially the Final exam.

Be early, early, early. The day of a test, the student should one, get up out of bed at an early hour, early enough to get a good, healthy breakfast before reviewing last-minute notes. Also, the student should arrive early to the test-taking site to avoid any stress or panic.

Visualize. It’s a health practice for the student to imagine a successful test – literally envisioning themselves going slowly and successfully over each question, performing each in a confident, competent manner, and finishing every question calmly, thoroughly, with the least amount of stress as possible.

Be alert, sit upright and, if possible, choose a comfortable seat/chair and location. A great deal of the student’s success in taking a test depends on their ability to stay focused, alert and comfortable.

Stay relaxed, confident – and keep a positive attitude. Like visualizing success, the student must not let their negative thoughts cause a poor test performance. They should keep reminding themselves they are doing their best, will pass the test with flying colors, and get on with their day. A few deep breaths also help to maintain focus and composure.

Read the directions carefully and avoid making errors due to carelessness. Most tests do have a time limit; however, it is more than beneficial when the student reads all directions

Have a strategy. Answer questions in a strategic order, depending on the student’s strengths/weaknesses, comfort level, and understanding of the content. The student may want to answer easy questions first, as sort of a warm-up, which may build confidence, then answer questions with the most point value.

• On objective test questions, eliminate incorrect answers: This works with multiple-choice questions, true-false questions, etc.

• If possible, make very broad outlines for essays. This helps the student visualize their written answer, serving as a makeshift formula for a response.

• If time allows, look the test over once more. Rather than turning in their test right after they’re done with it, the student should hold on to their test as long as possible. They should check to make sure they’ve answered every question to the best of their abilities and not made careless, pointless errors, have mismarked answers, and so on. Also, the student may find pertinent, helpful information, or even an answer to a question, at a different part of the test.

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