Test-Taking Tips

General Test-Taking Tips

1. Know the testing rules for each class

  • Are you allowed to leave the test to go to the restroom?
  • Are you allowed to ask questions during the exam?
  • Are you allowed to have food/drink with you?
  • Are you allowed additional materials?
    • Calculator, note card, periodic table, etc.?

2. Know yourself and your best routine

  • Eat/drink/exercise as is appropriate for you. This is not the day to try something new!

3. Get a good night’s sleep: Do NOT pull an “all nighter”!

4. Arrive on time (that is, early) so that you’re ready to go when the time starts.

5. Once you get your exam, read the directions carefully.

6. Go through the entire thing at least once before writing anything: you want to be sure you have all the pages, that the question numbers are contiguous and how many points each question is worth (you need to pace yourself so you allow ample time for the high-value questions).

7. Is there an essay question?  Jot down, in the margins or on back of the page, anything you know about the topic and keep it in mind as you go through the other parts of the exam.

Multiple Choice Questions

Plan to work through the entire exam at least three times:
1.    Read each question carefully and

  • if you know the answer right away, answer it!
  • if you know it, or how to do it, but you know it will take some time, mark it (maybe +).
  • if you don’t know it and/or can’t remember anything about it, mark it (maybe with a -).

Work your way through the exam, doing these easy ones first.  If you come across anything that will help you with the essay question, turn to it and jot this down.

2.    Start at the beginning of the exam and do all the questions you marked with +.  Again, make notes on the essay question if you find helpful hints in other questions.

3.    Once you’ve done all these, go back and start working on those questions you marked – you may find that another question on the test has given you a hint and now you know how to work through it or at least eliminate some of the options.

4.    Mark up your questions in any way that is helpful.

  • Watch for qualifiers, such as “always”, “never”, “true”, “false”; you may want to underline them.
  • Be aware of any conditions or changes in conditions, such as temperature, pressure, molarity, etc.  Again, you may want to circle them.
  • Same thing for the answer choices – read them and mark information that is helpful -- you may find that two are contradictory and both cannot be correct.

Constructed Response questions

1.  Read the directions!  Make sure you know exactly what you’re supposed to do and pace yourself.  Be sure you know how you’ll be graded – does spelling count?  Grammar?  Proofread your work to correct these and to make sure your response is clear.

2. Outline your answer before you start.  Make sure you’ve covered everything the question asks of you.

3. When writing your answer, leave space between your lines so you can add items that may come to you later or make corrections.

4. Use the wording of the question to inform the way you answer it:                  

  • Analyze: Break into separate parts and discuss, examine, or interpret each part.
  • Compare: Examine two or more things. Identify similarities and differences.
  • Contrast: Show differences. Set in opposition.
  • Criticize: Make judgments. Evaluate comparative worth. Criticism often involves analysis.
  • Define: Give the meaning; usually a meaning specific to the course or subject. Explain the exact meaning. Be brief.
  • Discuss: Consider and debate or argue about the pros and cons of an issue. Write about any conflict. Compare and contrast.
  • Enumerate: List several ideas, aspects, events, things, qualities, reasons, etc.
  • Evaluate: Give your opinion or cite the opinion of an expert. Include evidence to support the evaluation.
  • Explain: Make an idea clear. Show logically how a concept is developed. Give the reason for an event.
  • Illustrate: Give concrete examples. Explain clearly by using comparisons or examples.
  • Interpret: Comment upon, give examples, describe relationships. Explain the meaning. Describe, then evaluate.
  • Outline: Describe main ideas, characteristics, or events.
  • Predict: Use concepts you’ve learned to explain what you think might happen in a novel situation.
  • Prove: Support with facts (especially facts presented in class or in the text.)
  • Relate: Show the connections between ideas or events. Provide a larger context.
  • State: Explain precisely.
  • Summarize: Give a brief, condensed account. Include conclusions. Avoid unnecessary details.
  • Trace: Show the order of events or progress of a subject or event.