What are Some Test Taking Tips?

Michael Pollick

One constant in life is that sooner or later, there will be a test. Many times, the only way to measure comprehension or competency is through objective testing, and that can trigger anxiety in even the most well-prepared student. There are a number of test taking tips which can take much of the sting out of the testing process, many of which have little to do with the actual material covered on the test itself. An experienced test taker can often earn a passing score in a subject he or she has never studied prior to taking the exam.

Taking practice tests can help people prepare for standardized tests.
Taking practice tests can help people prepare for standardized tests.

One test taking tip involves anxiety reduction and physical relaxation. Whenever possible, visit the area in which the testing will take place. Familiarize yourself with the ambient sounds of the room, the seating arrangement, the lighting levels and so on. Some people do not do well on tests if they are overwhelmed by an unfamiliar test taking environment, so it pays to become familiar with the surroundings so your mind won't be distracted during the actual test.

Students taking standardized tests are advised to eat a good breakfast on the day of the exam.
Students taking standardized tests are advised to eat a good breakfast on the day of the exam.

Other test taking tips include avoiding complete sleep deprivation before taking the exam. Some people do benefit from cram sessions the night before testing, but the mind needs some time to process the flood of information it receives from intensive studying. Consuming power drinks or other highly caffeinated beverages won't necessarily help a person retain information. There is usually a crash several hours after consumption, and this crash may occur during test time if the test taker does not take time to sleep. Get sufficient rest and eat a healthy meal before taking an objective test.

Time management is critical when taking objective tests.
Time management is critical when taking objective tests.

There are some test taking strategies which have become very familiar to students over the years. One such strategy involves narrowing down the choices of a multiple choice test. Test creators strive to make their tests random, which means the likelihood of the same letter being the answer more than three times in a row is very low. Answers such as "all of the above" or "none of the above" are generally used sparingly, and logic dictates if even two answers are clearly wrong or right, the rest should match.

Getting enough sleep may help reduce test anxiety.
Getting enough sleep may help reduce test anxiety.

Some experts on test taking tips also suggest when in doubt, charlie out. This means whenever a test taker is guessing the answer to an unfamiliar question, the most likely response is "C", or in some cases the longest answer. Statistically speaking, it is often better to guess an answer than to leave it blank, since there is a 25% chance of getting it right through guessing, but a 100% chance of losing credit for not answering at all.

Time management is also critical when taking objective tests. If a test proctor or instructor places a strict time limit on a test section, you may want to skim through the questions quickly and complete the easiest ones first. By getting those questions out of the way, more time can be spent on the difficult or unfamiliar questions. It may also be easier to put the timer out of your mind as you work on the test. Some people perform better on a test with no time limits than on a similar test with strict time limits or a penalty for unanswered questions.

If there is an official study guide or test preparation book, it would be to your advantage to obtain one. The guide may contain any number of test taking tips specific to the demands of the actual test. Sample questions can prove very useful when taking standardized tests such as college entrance exams. There may also be complete practice tests or pre-tests available for a nominal fee. Going through the motions of a test can make it much less traumatic whenever it's time to take the real thing.

Some people can benefit from cram sessions the night before a test.
Some people can benefit from cram sessions the night before a test.

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Discussion Comments


The statistics were extremely helpful, I would have never thought that a 25% chance is better than a 0% chance. Thank you for this valuable insight, happy test taking.


I agree with what has been posted about taking standardized tests. I would add that it's important to understand the format of the test; from the standpoint of injecting your analysis into what the test writers are looking for, the thought process is critical.For example, the LSAT employs critical thinking skills, and, if you understand the various processes of it, you will perform well on the test.


If you're taking something like a GRE, where there can be found workbooks with sample tests, start by going to the section where the answers are found. Without studying either the questions or the answers, look at the correct answers, then go to the sample tests and black out all incorrect distractors (answers). Then, starting at the beginning of each test, write out (or type) every question, completely, and the answer and, if any are there, the explanation. Write out the whole thing for every question. By the end of the workbook, you will have a thorough grasp of the important facts that will be tested. It's a slog, but then, so is the test. How badly do you want to ace the thing? Good luck.


Thank you for the information. Actually I have a multiple choice exam shortly on environmental science. What we received is power point handouts and I find it difficult to focus in on anything special, plus it is quite a lot.


Good article. One thing left out is the question of knowing ahead of time if a wrong answer will be counted against you.

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