It’s normal to feel anxious on test day. Even the most prepared students can feel nervous when they take a test. Despite the hours of studying put in, sitting down to actually take a test can make it feel like everything you’ve done to prepare just goes out the window. Sound familiar? It’s okay – the good news is, there are ways to prevent this from happening. Here are some of our best test-taking strategies to help you get through your next test (and all of them after that!).
Test-Taking Tips to Prepare
Get familiar with the test
We’re not saying to start studying. Before you do that, try to learn as much as you can about the actual test. What topics will the test cover? Is it multiple choice or essay responses? Do you have to show your work?
If you’re not sure, talk to your professor to find out exactly what to expect. From there, you can adjust your study list appropriately.
Set a study schedule
While there are plenty of helpful strategies to test taking, they’re nothing if you don’t have a good grasp on the test material! Once you know what the test will cover, set aside time each day to study. Even if it’s only half an hour a day, spending time doing practice problems, reading, or quizzing yourself is crucial to getting the material down.
It’s important to dedicate time to study, but don’t cram. When you cram, you’re not getting a deep understanding of what you’re studying – not to mention, trying to study and recall information quickly only makes for more stress! Start studying early and consistently to avoid the need to cram.
Make it personal
Having trouble understanding a certain concept? Relate it to your life. Maybe a character in the book you’re reading for an exam reminds you of an old friend, or you can remember a history question by linking it to a trip you’ve taken. Whatever it is, find a way to link it to something personal to help you remember!
Strategies for Test Day
Rest and fuel up
The night before the test, make sure you get to bed early and eat a good breakfast in the morning. Get there early and do a quick review of everything you’ve studied, but keep it short (like we said, don’t cram!). You’ve laid the groundwork for a great test, so don’t stress!
Pay attention to the instructions
This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to skip over the instructions thinking you know what to do. You may know exactly what to do, but make sure you still read the instructions or listen to your instructor explain. Every test is different. Take a few moments to get a good understanding of the instructions so you don’t make a simple mistake that could have been avoided.
Look through the test and allocate time appropriately
Once you receive the go-ahead to start, take a minute to look through the entire test and get an idea of how much time you’ll need for each question or section. If any part of the test looks more difficult than others, consider starting there, so you can get it done and spend the rest of the time going through the less challenging questions. Pace yourself, and if you’re not sure about something, skip it and come back to it later.
Write down any key information
If you’re worried you may forget something important, write it down as soon as the test begins. This way, you’ll be able to refer back to that formula or term when you need it.
Take a breath
It’s easy to feel anxious about time and rush through each question. If you start feeling this way, sit back and take a deep breath. You have time! Take a few moments to thoroughly read each question, and formulate your answer from there.
Go with your gut
More often than not, that answer that stands out to you first is usually the correct one. Don’t second-guess yourself. Unless you’re positive the first answer you chose is incorrect, go with your gut!
Give yourself time to review
Once you’ve finished, go back over the test and make sure you haven’t skipped any questions, or read over your essay to check for spelling or grammatical errors. If you marked any questions down to go back to later, check on those. Once you feel confident with your work, it’s time to turn it in!
There’s no way around it – taking tests is stressful. But with the right preparation and test-taking strategies, the process can be a lot smoother. Find what works for you, and start studying!
Looking for more? Check out our test-taking tips for college entrance exams here.