8 Essential Test-Taking Tips for Students

Classrooms Team

Nov 3, 2020
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Tests induce anxiety in students of all ages. Even older, practiced students may get nervous because the upcoming questions cover a range of material. Everyone has to learn how they retain information, but what happens when the next test is right around the corner?

Read on to learn eight critical test-taking tips for students who need a new strategy. They’ll mitigate pre-test nerves and give you the clarity to confidently finish any exam.

1. Get Enough Sleep

It’s tempting to stay up all night with flashcards and piles of notes. Even though the review might remind you of something you forgot, not getting enough sleep will hurt your final grade. You won’t recall information as quickly if you’re battling brain fog and exhaustion.

Instead, plan to sleep for at least eight hours before your test. The extra energy will help you start your exam with confidence, even if it begins with tricky questions.

2. Refresh Before the Test

Before you leave home for your next test, pack all your notes. Refreshing your mind with study materials is one of the top test-taking tips you can use during your entire educational career. It specifically prevents your mind from clearing when you come across a tough question.

When you feel your memory go blank, it’s because your brain wants to protect you. Your heart rate rises and the hypothalamus produces stress hormones. After these hormones flood your brain, it clears your working memory so you maintain a singular focus on your flight or fight instinct.

Whether you prefer flashcards or reading from your textbook, review the test material before the exam so you can answer every question.

3. Read the Questions Carefully

It’s easy to miss points because you’re worried. You might rush through the questions because you’re panicking, but that increases the likelihood that you’ll miss crucial information. A single word could indicate the correct answer.

After your test begins, don’t rush. Read every question carefully to understand precisely what they’re asking and how to solve them.

4. Answer What You Know

After you come across the first question you’re not sure about, your heart stops. It throws you for a loop. When that happens, skip to the next question. Answering what you know restores your confidence so you can go back to the more challenging problems with less anxiety.

This strategy also saves time. You’ll write down the answers on the tip of your tongue faster than those that give you pause. It could make all the difference during timed tests.

Just make sure to go back to those tougher questions. In previous years, ACT or SAT administrators penalized students for wrong answers, so news spread that everyone could leave questions blank. Now those tests have changed. Unless your teacher clearly says otherwise, forgetting to answer the questions you skipped will cost you valuable points.

5. Consider Your Teacher’s Answer

Your instructor’s preferred style of teaching could help you finish a hard test. Imagine them standing at the front of the room, lecturing about the confusing question. How did they talk about the subject or work through the problem? Visualizing their lesson could bring back key information that saves you from getting a lower grade.

6. Use That Margin Space

When you’re up against a math or science test, use that margin space. The blank areas around your exam questions are the perfect places to make mental notes or work out equations. If your teacher doesn’t need you to return the copy of your exam, it doubles as a scrap sheet of paper. Remember this tip the next time you have to fill out scantron bubbles and need room to solve a problem.

7. Estimate Your Time

After writing your name on the top of your test, add up the questions. If you have half an hour to answer thirty questions, that gives you roughly one minute to complete each. When you feel yourself getting caught up on a complicated problem, you’ll know to move on and save that extra time to come back later.

Many students find that pacing themselves can steady their focus, but only if you know how to use your time wisely. Estimating how long you have for each question makes that possible.

8. Review Your Test

Always review your test before turning it in. Even though you might think you went back for the problems you skipped, it’s smart to double-check. You could catch a simple mistake you made when you were more worried at the start of the test and prevent yourself from getting a lower grade. Run through each problem so you’re confident in your answers before submitting it.

Start Studying Early

Now that you’ve read some of the most critical test-taking tips for students, it’s time to learn one more — start studying as early as possible. Take advantage of your teacher’s virtual assignment calendar or printed test schedule. Giving yourself time to memorize and review everything will set you up for success, especially when you combine that advantage with these tips.

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