Ten Tips for Test Taking

Adapted from Study Guides & Strategies, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn (Sept. 1998).


Come prepared; arrive early for tests. Bring all the materials you will need such as pencils and pens, a calculator, snacks, and a watch. This will help you focus on the task at hand.
Stay relaxed and confident. Don’t let yourself become anxious. Don’t talk to other students before a test; anxiety is contagious. Instead, remind yourself that you are well-prepared and are going to do well. If you feel anxious before or during a test, take several slow, deep breaths to relax.
Be comfortable but alert. Choose a good spot to take the test. Make sure you have enough room to work. Maintain an upright posture in your seat.
Preview the test (if it is not timed). Spend 10% of your test time reading through the test carefully, marking key facts and issues and deciding how to budget your time. As you read the questions, jot down brief notes indicating ideas you can use later in your answers.
When taking a multiple choice test, know when to guess. First eliminate answers you know are wrong. Always guess when there is no penalty for guessing or you can eliminate options. Don’t guess if you have no basis for your choice and if you are penalized for guessing. Since your first choice is usually correct, don’t change your answers unless you are sure of the correction.
When taking essay tests, think before you write. Create a brief outline for your essay by jotting down a few words to indicate ideas you want to discuss. Then number the items in your list to indicate the order in which you will discuss them.
When taking essay test, get right to the point. State your main point in the first sentence. Use your first paragraph to provide an overview of your essay. Use the rest of your essay to discuss these points in more detail.
Reserve 10% of your test time for review. Review your test; resist the urge to leave as soon as you have completed all the items. Make sure you have answered all the questions. Proofread your writing for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Analyze your test results. Each test can further prepare you for the next test. Decide which strategies worked best for you. Identify those that didn’t work well and replace them. Use your tests to review when studying for final exams.