Best 10 Test-Taking Tips for College Students

Carolina Jacobs

Jun 8, 2022

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While test-taking comes naturally to some students, others may have difficulty passing exams. In college, test prep is crucial for maintaining a high level of academic performance.

A recent survey conducted by Grand Canyon University found that 22.7% of college students study for six to 10 hours per week.

Whether you’re a pro at making the grade or need to brush up on your test-taking strategies, these 10 best-test tips will help you pass your next exam.

1. Schedule Time to Study

A heavy course load fills your calendar quickly. Additionally, a 2018 report from Georgetown University found that 39% of students attending bachelor’s degree programs also work full-time.

With so many obligations, scheduling time to study is critical if you plan to do well during the semester. Time management is also an essential skill you can master for future employment.

2. Find the Perfect Study Location

Creating the perfect study environment will allow you to focus on the subject and retain the little details.

Choose a quiet location that’s free of distractions and electronic devices. Some students may also find it helpful to take their laptops and books to a cafe or library, while others may enjoy listening to soft study music.

3. Alternate Topics and Methods

Although research indicates 71 different learning styles, students most often refer to visual, audio, or kinesthetic techniques for test prep.

Of course, discovering which learning styles work best for you may take trial and error. Some helpful test-taking tips might include alternating between studying different topics and attempting various methods, including note cards, concept mapping, and highlighting key terms in the textbook.

4. Review Notes for Accuracy

Your understanding of the topics will improve the more you review them, so keep your notes organized and up-to-date with the most accurate information.

Jot down examples that help you grasp the subject matter and cite the key topics that interest you the most. You’ll have a much easier time memorizing facts if you draw real-life connections with the material.

5. Seek Help From a Tutor

Some subjects are more complex than others, and many students typically seek outside help to improve their test-taking strategies and learning.

Ask your professor to clarify concepts you may not have understood during a lecture or contact your department head or college’s study lab to schedule time with a student tutor.

Most schools’ test-prep services are free for students or offered at a reasonable rate.


6. Stay Healthy

With so much course material to review, students tend to forget an essential test-taking tip: make sure you stay healthy.

Eating a nutritionally balanced diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep are paramount for building effective study habits.

You’ll also want to care for your eyesight by investing in blue-light glasses, doing eye exercises to prevent straining, and adjusting your monitor 20-30 inches from your face at eye level.

7. Don’t Cram the Night Before

Sometimes the weeks catch up to you and you find yourself cramming as much as possible the night before an exam – or, worse, the same day.

Cramming for a test often induces anxiety, so if you know an exam is coming up, try to schedule brief study breaks throughout the week.

When you test prep with short and frequent study sessions, you can review the main points the night before rather than staying up late with the material.

8. Determine What Stands Out

Relax your body by taking a deep breath before beginning your exam, then read the directions and see what stands out to you right away.

Are there multiple-choice questions, long-form questions, or essays? How much time do you have to spend on each question?

Answer the questions you recognize right away and allow yourself more time to revisit more challenging questions later.

9. Try Not to Get Frustrated

Even if you’ve attempted all the best test-taking strategies in advance, you may still get stuck on a question.

Feel free to circle the question or mark it with an asterisk so you remember to return to it again later. If you genuinely can’t recall an answer, making an estimated guess based on what makes the most sense is better than leaving it entirely blank.

10. Look Over Your Results

After the test, consider which test-taking tips worked for you and how you can improve your studying routine for next time.

When you get your exam back, review your incorrect answers. Make notes of what you didn’t know or understand and aim to master the content before moving ahead.

Test-Taking Prep – Practice Makes Perfect

Acquiring effective study habits takes time and practice. Just as you’re learning new subjects, you’re also discovering the most effective test-taking strategies. Continue improving your study skills to achieve academic success.

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