Studying & Writing Effectively

Taking Tests

Test-taking is different from studying in that it focuses on performance. Strategic test-taking focuses on you maximizing your marks and accurately reflecting your mastery of the material under timed conditions. 

What are some general test-taking strategies?

  • Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early.
  • As soon as you can begin, write any information you’re worried about forgetting.
  • Preview the test by identifying the type and number of questions.
  • Plan your time for each section.
  • Read the directions carefully so you don’t miss essential information.
  • Do the questions you are sure of first to stay confident and maximize your marks if you run out of time.

Reflect: Which of these strategies were new to you? Which do you think would be most effective for you?

What are some multiple-choice test-taking strategies?

  • Read each question carefully and circle the key words while watching for words like “not” and “except."
  • Cover the options and answer the stem yourself before looking at the answers.
  • Read the stem with each option in case there are better answers further down.
  • Skip questions you do not know the answer to and return to them. Put a mark beside them so you do not get confused.
  • Eliminate any answers you know are wrong before choosing.

Reflect: Did using these strategies help you work more methodically through each question? You can eliminate wrong answers caused by carelessness and rushing by following these tips.

What are some essay exam test-taking strategies?

  • Read the directions carefully.
  • Analyze the question and circle key words.
  • Plan your answer with an outline to help organize information and keep you on track.
  • Keep your introduction to the point with a clear thesis statement that addresses the research question.
  • Write one main point per paragraph and support it with relevant examples and explanation.
  • Write concise and complete sentences.
  • Use transition words to connect paragraphs and sentences.
  • Use bullet points if you are running out of time.
  • Leave time to proof read for illogical sentences, missed points or words, spelling, punctuation, and grammar

Reflect: Did you outline your response and stick to that outline? Spending some time planning before writing can help you use your time well and stay on track.How can you learn from your tests when they are returned?

  • Figure out where the material for the questions came from.
  • Identify whether you were asked to apply knowledge or just recall information.
  • Decide if the questions were related to learning objectives from the instructor or the text.
  • Figure out where and why you lost marks and whether it was
    • misunderstanding the question
    • inadequate study preparation
    • poor recall
    • studying the wrong material
    • inadequate response
    • spelling mistakes
    • grammar mistakes

Reflect: Have you reviewed your past tests this semester? This can help you identify the types of errors you made and devise a plan for preparing and/or performing better next time.

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