How to improve test-taking skills


Students are periodically tested to gauge their progress on a variety of subjects. Although testing can be an effective way to determine a student’s understanding of a given subject, not every student performs well on tests. Test-taking comes easily for some but not so for others. Nerves or trouble concentrating can foil the best students. However, there are ways for students to improve their test-taking skills.


Most tests are given with prior notice, enabling students to prepare for them well in advance. Sometimes teachers and professors will surprise students with a quiz. These pop quizzes are used to judge how well students are absorbing the information and if they have been paying attention.

When in class, continually jot down notes and create an outline of important information. The teacher may provide hints about the upcoming test, including emphasizing specific areas of focus or even revealing the format of the test. Contrary to what some students believe, teachers want their students to succeed. Therefore, your teacher may offer a review session the day before or be open for questions prior to the test if further clarification is needed.

Studying with others can shed new light on a subject. Studying difficult subject matter with peers may help students grasp the materials better than they did in class. Classmates may have some tricks they’ve developed, including pneumonic devices for putting facts together.

The day before

and the day of the test

Prior to a test, make sure you eat and get enough rest. While it may be tempting to pull an “all-nighter,” you will not perform well on the test if you are tired from having studied all night. Review the material and put the main ideas or formulas onto a sheet that can be quickly reviewed. Review it many times and then put it away. Have a good meal, relax and try to get at least eight hours of sleep.

On the day of the test, wake up and arrive on time or even a few minutes early for your class. This can help to calm your nerves and enable you to squeeze in some last-second studying.

The test itself

Make sure you have the supplies needed for the test. This may include pens or pencils, a calculator, a textbook if you are allowed to reference, or any other supplies the teacher allows. Have a watch available so that you can pace yourself during the test. Avoid using a mobile phone during the test, as the teacher may misinterpret that as cheating.

Try to remain positive through the test. If you feel yourself getting nervous, take a few deep breaths and regroup.

In addition to these tips, there are other ways to approach the test.

• Do the easiest problems first. If you do not know a question, skip it and move on. There may be clues later on in the test that help you go back and answer skipped questions.

• Always read the entire question. Skimming could find you missing important instructions.

• Look for words that may help you determine the answer, such as “all,” “never” or “none.” They may present clues to the answer.

• Pay attention to your work and only your work. Do not be distracted if others finish before you.

• If there is time, go back and look over the test. Make sure that all the questions have been answered and check for any careless mistakes. Proofread any essays and short answer questions.

Preparing well for a test, remaining calm and checking over your work can help students who struggle with test-taking do their best.


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