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Top test-taking strategies to help you crack the best score

It is the evening before an exam, and you are not at all anxious, in fact, you feel prepared – does this scene seem a little too hard to imagine? 

The exam times are tough. The majority of us get hit with a similar wave of emotions. First, it is a false sense of security – because the exam is hours away, you can surely cover the entirety of your syllabus by the time the test starts, you can even sleep properly tonight! Then the reality dawns upon you – perhaps you need to leave out some parts of the syllabus, you are running low on time, maybe if you stay up a few extra hours to revise a set portion of the syllabus, you can still score well on the test…? 

Finally, the anxiety sets in – you are probably not going to sleep tonight, and the chances of you scoring what you aimed for in this test are grim. For some people, even if they go over the exam material seemingly countless times, the anxiety just keeps on closing in.

Any kind of test, be it a mock exam, or of course, a very serious final exam, should be given enough importance beforehand in order to ace it when the day finally arrives, because it is the outcomes of these very exams which can greatly influence the quality of life further down the line.

So, what can you really do to avoid feeling anxious and distraught before the exam? Work strategically! In this article, we will be sharing some of the most effective test-taking strategies. We will cover what to do before the day of the exam, what to do on the day of the exam, and how to spend your time productively after you are done with the exam. Let’s get started. 


How To Study For A Test – Test Preparation Tips

The outcome of any important event largely depends on how you work for it from the very start. That is correct – preparation for your test should begin from day 1 itself. We are not asking you to study for 4 hours after your first day or your first lecture, of course, but we do recommend taking little conscious steps to ensure that your work does not pile up to the ceiling by the time of your test rolls around. 


Attend your classes: Do you know what is one of the easiest ways of absorbing information that will likely be on your test? Attending classes and paying some attention to your professor! Even if your professor does not make attendance mandatory, you are likely paying for these very classes with your money, why not simply sit and pay attention to the information for a few hours? Paying attention the first time around saves you hours later on during the term, because if you have already become familiar with the material during the class, you are likely to take lesser time in memorizing the content later on, with better results! Bonus point for attending classes if your professor is the one preparing your exam question paper – you might even be able to gauge which material is more important according to them through the amount of time and emphasis put on the topics while teaching in class – ensuring better results.

Get to know the exam pattern: Another benefit to attending your classes regularly is that you are likely informed, very meticulously, of the pattern of your exam, they might even present their personal predictions on what could be on the exam! However, through your professor or through other ways, getting to know the exam pattern is a must. How many points is the exam going to be for? What kind of questions will be on the test – is it entirely made up of multiple-choice questions, entirely of essay questions, perhaps a mix of both? What is the importance given to each topic from the entire syllabus? These are some very important questions you should know the answer to, before going into your exam.      

Plan and maintain a consistent study schedule: All the work you have done till now – going to class regularly, getting to know the exam pattern – is futile if you do not actually study your material enough to be able to easily write it in your exam. We recommend regularly spending one hour (at least) going through the content covered in classes: the best way to do this would be to make an outline of your notes taken in class so that when your exam draws closer, you will not panic as much since you will have a neat outline of content you have already revised before.     

How To Manage Test Anxiety

Some of us are a lot more susceptible to intense panic and anxiety before important events, sometimes to the point where it can interfere with our performance during the event. Anxiety can show physical symptoms, not just mental ones, and it is important to address both when it comes to advising on managing it. Here’s some helpful advice to deal with the built-up anxiety before your test –   

– Take care of your body: This is extremely important, especially during the weeks following up to your test. Make sure you consume a proper, nutritious diet, and keep your body well-hydrated since dehydration can cause a reduction in the level of concentration, which is something we certainly do not want. Make sure you are consistently getting adequate sleep (7-9 hours per night) in the days leading up to the test. If you are one of those people who have too much nervous energy, try exercise! Something like a quick jog or a few jumping jacks, or even playing a sport for a bit can help!

– Take care of your mind: It is important to pay as much attention to your mental health as it is to your physical health during the time before your test. Make sure you are not diverging from what you have planned out to study, so there is no unneeded stress about ‘all these topics that are remaining!’ – handle one thing at a time to not stress yourself out. Additionally, we recommend taking some time out for simple meditation, or at the very least, some breathing exercises, in order to reduce stress building up before the exam. We also recommend trying a bit of yoga or stretching exercises to loosen up your body from tension, which can also help your mind ease up.

– Avoid paying attention to others: It is generally advised to avoid being in contact with the people who will be sitting the same test as you – unless, of course, it helps put your mind at ease. Getting to know that a friend of a friend is doing 3 past question papers per day, or that a rather intelligent and usually high-scoring friend has decided to take on studying a few extra topics is only ever going to stress you out by making you wonder about unnecessary things. Someone is claiming they heard a certain topic will not be coming in the exam at all? Do not pay attention to it. Someone saying only the 6 out of the total 12 topics are worth studying because they are carrying the most points? Ignore them. You have already done thorough research on the pattern of the exam during your preparation, and then created a study schedule – do not begin to doubt yourself.

– Simulate test conditions: It is truly something we would recommend to you if you experience anxiety because of the actual conditions of the exam rooms. All you have to do is obtain past question papers for your test, find a desk, and time yourself on a watch to replicate exam conditions. Doing this for as many days as you can leading up to the exam, will help ease your anxiety during the day of the actual exam. Mock tests are available for most of the competitive exams and they help a great deal with the preparation.

Test Taking Strategies 

A test-taking strategy is any kind of preparation for an important evaluation. It does not just remain limited to the things we do before the exam starts. The strategy for tests depends heavily on two things: the content of the syllabus, and the pattern of the question paper. Here are some ways to make a strategy for different types of question papers, and different types of content on the syllabus:

Multiple choice test-taking strategies:For exams that contain multiple-choice questions, we recommend that you begin by reading the question carefully first. Once you have read the question, answer the question in your mind, then look at the choices given in the paper – choose the answer you had in your mind if it is there, your work here is done.

However, if none of the given choices is the answer you had in mind, we will give you some tips on how to make an educated guess – look for extreme words like ‘Always’ or ‘Never’, these words are placed to distract the test-taker, do not fall for these, unless you know that such an option is the correct answer, avoid it. Secondly, if all the options listed are worded very specifically and similarly to the subject matter, check if there is an ‘All of the above’ option, in such a case, we would suggest you pick this option.

On the other hand, from our experience, unless you happen to be completely sure of yourself, ‘None of the above’ is almost always the wrong option to pick while making an educated guess. Lastly, if there is nothing else you can think of as the correct option, go for the most grammatically correct option as your choice. Of course, there are times when these hacks won’t work, but in the case when there’s no negative marking and you are not sure about the answer, these tips might just prove useful.

Test-taking strategies for elementary school students and middle school students:Now, of course, exam patterns vary by the level of education an individual is at. Elementary level students and middle school students tend to get assessed through similar patterns in their exams: questions asking whether a statement is true or false, questions asking the candidates to fill in one word into the blanks, and the short answer questions. While there really is not much we can do about the questions requiring one-word answers to be filled into the blanks other than simply learning the correct answer, we can certainly help you strategically answer you ‘True or False?’ questions and the questions which require you to answer briefly.

For questions asking you to state whether a statement is true or false – if extreme words such as ‘always’ or ‘never’ are used in the statement, it is probably false. As for identifying true statements, most of the statements using words such as ‘usually’ or ‘often’ or ‘seldom’ are generally true – notice how these never use extreme vocabulary. It is best to never leave a question unanswered, considering you have as much a chance of getting the correct answer as you have of getting the wrong answer if you make a guess.

Moving on to the short-answer questions, we would recommend that you ask your invigilator for a piece of blank paper during the exam. If you are allowed the piece of paper, use it as a ‘rough work-sheet’ to create an outline for your answer, just because the answer has to be brief does not mean it can be incoherent. Draw out a mind-map on a piece of paper, putting down what you want to write in your answer, and in what sequence you want to arrange it, in short form, of course, since you probably do not want to be spending all of your precious time writing out your answer on a piece of paper for rough work. Do not forget to properly state any key terms and their definitions, if the question asks for it, we would say the same thing about providing examples in an answer.

Another thing to pay attention to would be the word limit (if mentioned) in the question. For instance, if the question requires you to answer in 200-250 words, then try to stick to that limit, since you will not be getting additional points for writing a lengthy answer. Similarly, if a question asks you to answer in 500-600 words, do not feel free to write your answer in just 400 words and be done with it, your point will surely be deducted in the exam — like we said, word limit matters.  

Test-taking strategies for high school students: rough sheet for essay planning:The younger ones are lucky, high school students have it comparatively harder when it comes to the type of questions they get on their assessments. For the most part, essay-type questions – of varying importance – are the go-to when it comes to assessing students as their education level rises higher.

Firstly, time-management is the most important bit in acing an essay-based test, we recommend taking a look at the total number of questions in the paper, and dividing the time evenly, to answer them. When it comes to decoding essay questions, it is not all simple and straight like a mathematical calculation – read the question closely, what does the question ask you to do? Is it asking you to ‘discuss’, or is it asking you to ‘describe’? Is it asking you to ‘compare’ or is it asking for critical analysis? Do exactly what the question asks for, half the task is finished right there!

Next, ask your invigilator to provide you with a piece of paper and jot down a quick outline with everything you plan on mentioning in your answer – in the short form, of course – you will have to do this for every question on the exam. Now get to writing your answer, in the introductory paragraph of your essay, it is always suggested to briefly state what the rest of your essay intends to say or do. Remember the keyword in the question? Now would be the time to state whether your essay intends to examine/evaluate/describe/discuss the topic you are writing on. This gives the examiner a sense of direction at the very start of your essay, so even if you lose your train of thought along the way while writing your answer and ramble on, the examiner will not be in complete darkness about what you were trying to say, and you will most likely get credit for that. It bears mentioning – even though it is a given thing while writing an essay – that you should use proper grammar and punctuation while writing your essay in complete sentences.

Finally, once you are done fleshing out your essay, do not forget to quickly read through it once or twice, just to look for any mistakes you may have made in a hurry, correcting these mistakes can save you from getting your precious points deducted.  

Why Are Test Taking Strategies Important? 

Test-taking strategies are essential for a number of reasons since tests are how we assess someone on pretty much any skill in this day and age. If a person is taught proper test-taking strategies like the importance of simulating exam conditions beforehand, or of the time-management during the exam, or even the bare minimum of taking care of their physical and mental health a while before they are due to take the test, then it can dramatically affect the results in a positive manner. 

Due to sheer anxiety and dread of testing conditions, or just the unfamiliarity with the exam pattern and exam conditions, sometimes, even the most brilliant candidates are unable to perform to the best of their ability. Taking-taking strategies are what can help a candidate go from scoring a 90 out of 100 to a 100 out of 100. These strategies make a big difference by helping candidates translate exactly what they learn in the classroom, on the exam paper.

Test Taking Tips

We have talked about the long-term preparation as a part of your test-taking strategy, but let us now look at the things one should do immediately before or during the test:

Don’t cram the night before: It is as simple as that – if you can avoid cramming or trying to learn any new material the very night before the exam it would be immensely helpful to you. Your brain does not need one more source of new and confusing information right before the important test. If you are going to revise for anything the night before at all, just revise what you already know.

Pack your essentials in advance: This goes without saying, but pack your essential items for the day of your exam as much in advance as you can. Make sure you pack your writing utensils, water bottle (because it is important to stay hydrated during the exam), and hall ticket/admit card/any type of identification which you are required to present in order to sit the exam. Keep your wristwatch out somewhere like your study table, where you will be able to see it and not forget it on the day of the exam. Pick a comfortable outfit for the day of the exam or your uniform if that is what you are required to wear to the exam.

Get enough sleep: We have said this before and we will say this again – get enough hours of sleep, that is, between 7-9 hours of sleep on the nights leading up to the exam, but especially on the night before the exam. Lack of sleep can prevent you from performing your best on an exam you have worked so hard to prepare for, do not let that happen!

Eat a good breakfast: On the day of the exam, even if you are not typically someone who eats in the mornings at all, try to have a light but healthy snack – this could be a fruit or a healthy sandwich with some juice or milk. The hours we spend in the exam hall are long and gruelling, we must make sure our bodies are in their best shape while we are writing the exam.

Arrive early to the exam hall: A test day is one of those days when you can never be too early. Why risk running into an unexpected inconvenience a few minutes before your test begins, and risk being late, or worse, completely missing it? We recommend arriving at your school or exam venue at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the exam. If you are unfamiliar with the venue, arriving early allows you to have enough time to fumble around and find your seat, and settle in.

Do not ignore instructions: One more reason to arrive early to your exam, sometimes the instructions are read out by the invigilator right before the exam is to begin – pay attention to these! Sometimes this is the only way the instructions for the exam are provided. Ff you miss out on hearing the instructions, do not feel shy about asking the invigilator to repeat them for you. If your exam comes with written instructions, you are in luck, read and follow them carefully as failure to follow the exam instructions can put a huge dent in your exam performance.

Time your exam: Timing your exam allows you to stay on track even if it is one of those exam days when your brain is playing a song on a loop and you keep drifting in and out of focus on this particular question. If the exam pattern allows for it, try to finish the exam 10-15 minutes early in order to go over it quickly once or twice, so that any silly mistakes can be avoided at the very last minute.


After The Test Tips

So the day you did so much work for has come and gone – you are finally done with your test! Now, what do you do?

Forget about the exam: The first thing we would suggest is that you do not discuss the exam immediately after you are done writing it. Do not linger with your pals, do not ask them what they wrote for that one question, do not answer what you wrote when they ask you the same question. Doing so is only going to make you more anxious and unsure about the choices you made during the exam, try to forget about the exam for at least a while. Spend some time away from studying and do something for fun to distract yourself.

Review your mistakes: If your exam was for practice, or if you have not given the final exam for the class yet, after a rest period, you should calmly review the mistakes that you think you may have made during the exam – ask your professors and peers to determine what you may have understood wrong. Better yet, if your graded exam is returned back to you, your professor has already done this work for you.

 Try to improve: Once you have identified where you fell a bit short in your performance on the test, work on improving those areas by focusing more on them during your upcoming study sessions. We would also advise you to take in some feedback from your professors if they provide it, and work on improving those areas.

We have now arrived at the end of this article, but we hope reading this has equipped you to prepare for and deal with your tests better! We wish you the best of luck on your assessments!

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