General Test Taking Strategies

What you do before, during and after an exam will make a big difference. There are many steps you can take that will help you be better prepared. Here is a list of suggestions to follow before writing tests:

2-3 Weeks Before

  • Review class notes; make quick summary notes of key points.
  • Check that you understand module outcomes.
  • Create index cards or mind maps.
  • Check with the instructor to see if sample tests are available.

24 Hours Before

  • Review your notes.
  • Set out all the supplies you will need (e.g., pens, calculator, notes).
  • Get a good night’s rest.
  • Set your alarm, if needed.
  • Eat properly.
  • Plan to be at the test location early so that you can deal with any last minute changes, like computer problems or room changes.

Immediately Before

  • Arrive early.
  • Go to the washroom.
  • Be sure you understand all the rules prior to testing (e.g. cellphones, iPods, beverages, and so on).
  • Set out all your supplies.
  • Breathe and do relaxation techniques to focus your mind and body.
  • Visualize getting the test back and doing well on it.

During the Test

  • Take a few minutes to review the test.
  • Carefully read all the written directions.
  • Scan the whole test and write down on scrap paper the sections you will do first (if this is allowed).
  • Jot down your first reactions to major questions.
  • Brain dump. Write down any memory aids or formulas you will need, before you forget them.
  • Read the directions in each section to be sure you know what it is asking for.
  • Write an answer to every question. Don’t leave anything blank. If you write your first thoughts, you might be right. If you write nothing, you get nothing.
  • Don’t let a question “stop” or “stump” you. If you can’t recall an answer, mark the question and move on. Find a question that you can do. This also helps you regain your confidence.
  • Keep an eye on the clock so you finish before the time runs out.

When You Finish the Test

  • Take a few minutes to review your work.
  • Look over all answers.
  • Make sure you have answered all questions. When in doubt, guess! Chances are, your answer will be correct because you have studied.

After the Test

  • When you leave, look up any sections in your notes or textbook that you found difficult or confusing. Doing this will better prepare you for your next test.
  • Think back on the steps you took to prepare, and note how you can improve for next time. Ask yourself: Did I misread any questions? Did I learn the material and then forget it? Did I ever learn the material?
  • For additional support in evaluating your test performance, meet with your instructor or an academic strategist or to find out why you answered questions incorrectly.
  • Congratulate yourself on what you did well.
  • Relax. Do something you enjoy to take your mind off the test materials.