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Learning Strategies: A Test Taking Survival Guide

Author: Rebecca Oberg

Test Taking Strategies: What to Remember!

This helpful slide show presentation offers learners a variety of helpful tips for success on test day.

Source: See slide show presentation for citation

Step One for Doing Great on a Test: Study!

Watch this brief clip for a wealth of helpful hints for studying--the first step in succeeding on a test!

Source: YouTube

Test Taking: A Few Hints to Remember

Before you Begin:

  • 1. Preview the test before you answer anything. This gets you thinking about the material. Make sure to note the point value of each question. This will give you some ideas on budgeting your time.
  • 2. Do a mind dump. Using what you saw in the preview, make notes of anything you think you might forget. Write down things that you used in learning the material that might help you remember. Outline your answers to discussion questions.
  • 3. Quickly calculate how much time you should allow for each section according to the point value. (You don't want to spend 30 minutes on an essay question that counts only 5 points.)

Taking a Test:

  • 4. Read the directions. (Can more than one answer be correct? Are you penalized for guessing? etc.) Never assume that you know what the directions say.
  • 5. Answer the easy questions first. This will give you the confidence and momentum to get through the rest of the test. You are sure these answers are correct.
  • 6. Go back to the difficult questions. While looking over the test and doing the easy questions, your subconscious mind will have been working on the answers to the harder ones. Also, later items on the test might give you useful or needed information for earlier items.
  • 7. Answer all questions (unless you are penalized for wrong answers).
  • 8. Ask the instructor to explain any items that are not clear. Do not ask for the answer, but phrase your question in a way that shows the instructor that you have the information but are not sure what the question is asking for.
  • 9. Try to answer the questions from the instructor's point of view. Try to remember what the instructor emphasized and felt was important.
  • 10. Use the margin to explain why you chose the answer if the question does not seem clear or if the answer seems ambiguous.
  • 11. Circle key words in difficult questions. This will force you to focus on the central point.
  • 12. Express difficult questions in your own words. Rephrasing can make it clear to you, but be sure you don't change the meaning of the question.
  • 13. Use all of the time allotted for the test. If you have extra time, cover up your answers and actually rework the question.
  • Overcoming Test Anxiety

    Test anxiety may be one of the biggest issues hindering you from achieving the highest grades possible on tests. View this video clip to gain three easy tips for overcoming test anxiety. Good luck!

    Source: YouTube

    Hints on Studying For Exams: A Detailed Guide

    The following tips were created by a noted college professor, but they apply to almost any student, including those in high school. Read carefully!

    Most students seem to have considerable "test anxiety", and many talk themselves out of doing well before they even see the exam. If you do this, you will not be able to show what you are really able to accomplish. You need to try to gain some confidence in your own work, and realize that you can be successful, even on a difficult exam.

    Here are some hints that you should consider. Don't wait until the day before the exam to begin this!

    Review your notes each night. This critical part of the learning process often is neglected by students. Reviewing your notes daily will help you to organize the material for yourself, and to locate areas where you may have questions. It is especially important if you spend most of your class time taking down notes and find it difficult to think about the material and write at the same time. Don't expect that your understanding will come during the lecture; learning simply doesn't work that way. You need to spend time thinking about the course outside of class. Unless they specifically plan for that, most students don't do this.

    Come to class prepared. Do the homework before the next class, if you can, and be prepared with questions if not. Look over your notes briefly in the few minutes before class starts, so that you remember where your class left off and what you were trying to accomplish.

    Form note-sharing groups. If you are having trouble taking notes and listening at the same time in class, you might consider forming a note-sharing group with two or three other students in the class. For example, if there were three of you in the group, each would take notes one class per week while the other two could pay full attention to the lecture. After the class, the note-taker would photocopy his or her notes and give copies to the other members of the group.

    Organize the course material as you study. When you go to review for exams or quizzes, you should think about other ways that the material could be organized. This will help you recognized the interconnections of the material. One good practice is to condense five or ten pages of notes into one page by selecting the most important items. This act of choosing helps you to organize the material in your head; you determine what is important and what is not. Without this ability, you will have way too much to study and will get hopelessly lost. Once you have gone through all your notes and condensed them, you can go back over the condensed ones and do it again. See if you can condense your notes down to one or two pages by the end of the term.

    Don't forget to go over the homework and quizzes when you study. The quizzes and homework are not just for practice of things we did in class; they also should lead you to develop important concepts or procedures. A good practice, particularly when you are studying for an exam, is to look back at each problem from the quizzes and the homework assignments (particularly the ones that are not from the book) and try to give a one or two sentence statement that summarizes what that problem is about. If it's a procedure for doing something, make sure that it has been added to your notes.

    Don't do all your homework by looking at the answers first. Many students look at the answer before starting the problem (or before thinking long enough about it), and then work toward that answer. Remember, however, that on exams (and in life) you don't have the answers to work toward; if all your experience is working with the answer already known, you will have trouble when you don't have this on the exam. When you do problems in preparation for an exam, don't look at the answers and don't use your notes until you are all done. Try to make the situation as close to an exam situation as you can. Choose four or five problems and give yourself half an hour to do them with no additional help. Pretend you are really taking an exam; that's the best way to be prepared.

    Don't leave your studying to the last minute. Many students seem to feel that they can learn ten weeks of material in one or two nights of study. Does that really seem feasible? The best way to study is to keep up with your work as you go along; that way you will not have to study before the exams, as you will already know most of the material, so you can spend your time brushing up on a few weak points rather than learning the basics. Consider this: if you are on a sports team, do you wait until a day or two before the game to start practicing? Try to apply that same attitude to your academic work.

    Get a good night's sleep before the exam. Many students stay up too late studying the night before an exam. This is a bad idea, in general. If you had a big game to play the next day, would you think it was a good idea to stay up all night? Studies indicate the lack of even one or two hours of sleep can reduce your effectiveness and responsiveness by as much as 25%. Since most of you already will have a sleep deficit from staying up late perviously, this can be a serious problem. One study that tested sleep-deprived drivers showed that their reaction times could be as deminished as those of intoxicated drivers. That is, it was as bad for them as driving drunk! Do you think it would be good to take an exam while drunk? If not, be sure you get your sleep.Another recent study indicates that sleep is a crucial component in memory; that the material one studies must be "locked in" by a period of sleep. Furthermore, after a certain time with no sleep, no new information can be retained. The old joke about "Can we stop? My brain is full." seems to be true; at some point, your capacity to add new information is seriously reduced until you experience actual sleep. And that's not just doing something else for a break, but actual, honest sleep. Don't neglect this!

    Read through in-class exams before starting them. Most students start right in on the first problem when they get an exam. It is to your advantage, however, to take three minutes and read through the entire exam before starting in order to give you an idea of how much work there is, which ones are the easy ones, and which will take you longer. This is essential information if you are going to budget your time properly. Knowing what is coming is as important as knowing what you are currently doing. There is no reason why you have to do the problems in the order they were given. Some people like to do the ones they're sure of first, to get them out of the way, while others like to work on the hardest ones first, so they don't feel rushed on them later. Choose an approach that works for you. Another reason to read through the whole exam first is that sometimes later problems can shed light on earlier ones. Don't neglect this important source of information!

    Budget your time on exams. There is not a lot of extra time on many in-class exams, so you need to budget your time wisely (that's one reason you should read through the entire exam first). If you end up spending 20 minutes on one problem, you may not have time for the other ones. Be aware of how long you have spent on one, and don't be afraid to stop working on it and go on if it is taking too long. Don't let one problem spoil your entire exam.

    If you get frustrated, take a deep breath and regroup. I have seen students work themselves into a state where they can't even think anymore. Don't let this happen to you. If you start to feel overwhelmed, put your pencil down for a moment, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. The 15 seconds it takes to do that is well worth it if you can get back your composure. Remember, no one problem, or one exam, is worth the misery you make for yourself that way. Again, it's better to leave one problem blank than to let it block you from doing the rest of the exam.

    If you've done all the problems you know how to do on an exam, and there's still time, make up some of your own problems. If you don't think the exam I've written allows you to show me what you know, then turn the exam over and write what you do know; show me what you can do. Don't just sit there in frustration, and don't just leave when there's still a half an hour left. Be careful, however, that you really can do the problems you write; nothing looks worse than if you can't even do the problems you choose yourself.