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Practice Effective Test Preparation and Test Taking Strategies

Taking tests is like playing a sport. The object of the game is to score as many points as possible. The more you practice and the more you play, the better you get and the more points you score.

Follow these strategies to ensure that you are ready on test day:

  • Practice regularly
  • Be your own tough coach
  • Know what to expect from the other team
  • Play the game
  • Keep practicing



Practice regularly:  Do professional athletes wait until the day before the big game to begin practicing? Of course not! Your preparation for tests is no different. Test preparation begins on the first day of class and continues to the end of the semester. It includes participating in every class meeting and scheduling regular study time for your classes.  In college, your “practice” is studying, but instead of hitting the field, you will need to head to your chosen study place, usually a quiet spot with few distractions where you’ll find all the “equipment” (textbooks, notes, a computer, note cards, pens, pencils, and highlighters) you need to practice your sport. Athletes become accustomed to running drills to improve their speed, endurance, and strength. Studying is no different, but you’ll need to develop study “drills,” or strategies, that work for you. Understanding your learning style will help you to develop useful study strategies.



Be your own tough coach: In the sport of college, you are your own coach. No one else is going to get you out of bed every morning or make sure you’re going to class. You will determine your practice schedule, and only you will know if you’re not living up to Coach’s expectations. You may wish to assemble a team to help keep you on track: identify successful classmates and form a study group, or make regular visits to the Writing and Learning Commons to review course material and to learn new study strategies.



Know what to expect from the other team: Successful athletes go into a game knowing what to expect from the other team. They watch videos of their opponent’s previous games to determine the other team’s strategies. In your case, the “other team” is your professor, and your job is to find out as much as you can about how he or she will challenge you at test time. Talk to your professor about specific topics that will be covered on the test, ask what question formats will be used (i.e. multiple choice, T/F, short answer, essay), and find out if the professor makes old tests or study guides available to students. The more you know about the other team, the better prepared you’ll be on game day.



Play the game: Think of tests as an opportunity to show off what you’ve learned in all those tough practice sessions. A few suggestions for staying at the top of your game:

  • If you get pre-game jitters, take several slow, deep breaths and remind yourself of all you’ve done to prepare.
  • Visualize yourself answering all of the questions correctly.
  • When you receive your test, read all of the questions before answering anything.
  • Answer the questions you know first. Remember, the object is to score as many points as possible, and every question you answer correctly equals points on the scoreboard.
  • Pay attention to the number of points allocated to different questions. If the multiple choice questions are worth 20 points, but the short answer questions are worth 80, budget your time to ensure you “score” as many of those 80 points as possible.  
  • Avoid a penalty for leaving the field before the game is over. No one will earn a prize for being the first to finish a test. Take your time and check your answers if time allows.
  • If you review class material on a regular basis throughout the semester and follow these suggestions, but you still have anxiety about upcoming tests, contact Counseling and Psychological Services to learn about relaxation techniques and other strategies that may help.



Keep practicing: A sport’s season doesn’t end after the first game, and neither does your learning. If your score on a test is not as high as you had hoped, analyze your game as an athlete would. Think about where you went wrong and what you can do to improve your game the next time. Talk to your professor about any questions you missed on the test, and visit the Writing and Learning Commons to review material you still don’t understand.



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