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Health Center: Specific Test Taking Strategies
Tips for taking objective tests
Note: The opening part of a multiple choice question is called a stem.
- Read the stem only. Note important words that will guide your answer. If allowed, circle or underline these words.
Example: A patient has a vest restraint. While making this patient's occupied bed, what must the nurse do to promote patient safety? Important words in this question are vest restraint, occupied, and safety.
- Watch for limiting words such as not, except, but, and absolutes such as always, never and only.
- Next, think of an answer to the stem question, and then look for that answer. This will help you avoid being confused by distracters (wrong choices).
- If your answer is not one of the choices, or if you are unsure of the answer, read all the answer choices and eliminate the obviously wrong ones. Then read the remaining choices carefully and make a choice.
- Re-read the stem plus your answer choice.
Check: Is it grammatically correct? Is it an accurate statement? Does it match the "criteria" set out by the words you circled in the stem?
- Another way to approach multiple-choice questions is to read the stem plus each answer choice and consider the resulting sentences as true/false items. Mark T or F by each answer choice. This strategy works particularly well when answer choices include such items as "both a and c,"" all of the above," etc.
- Once you have made your best judgment and chosen an answer, do not go back and change your answer, unless you have a very good reason for doing so.
- Consider true-false items in the context of the class. Statements that are not 100% true in terms of the universe may be considered true for the purpose of the course you are taking.
- Remember that all parts of the question must be true.
- Watch for always, never, and only.
- Watch for words such as therefore, which implies a cause-effect relationship, and should,which has a different meaning than will, etc.
- Read quickly through the columns before you begin.
- Work from the definitions column (the column with the longest items). As you move down the list, it will take less time to scan the list of terms than it would to read through the list of definitions.
- Mark off answer choices as you select them.
Completion or Fill in the Blank
If you don't know the answer:
- Unless there is a penalty for wrong answers, always write something. You may get partial credit.
- Use the rest of the test for clues and for correct spelling.
Tips For Taking Math And Science Tests
- Prepare by doing timed drills. This is especially good when done in a study group. Use problems from assignments, or extra ones from the text.
- Before doing the test, write formulas in the margins of your test paper.
- Analyze the problem before computing. Read it two times and think the process through. Sketch a diagram or flow chart.
- Estimate an answer before you calculate.
- Show all of your work.
- Check your answer carefully: did you read the problem correctly? Did you use the correct formula? Is the computation correct? Does the answer make sense? Is the answer in proper form?
Tips For Taking Open Book Tests
- While studying, put tabs on pages that have key information. This will help you find charts, formulas, etc., quickly during the test.
- Prepare as carefully for an open book test as for any other test.
Tips For Taking Essay Tests
- Read the question carefully, paying attention to the terms used. Notice whether you are to narrate, describe, explain, compare, etc. Underline or circle the key words. Number or list at the side the embedded questions (sub-questions).
- Make a brief outline or concept map for your answer. This will help you to write an organized essay and to stay within time limits. Include key points, and make sure that your answer addresses all parts of the question.
- Write as neatly and legibly as you can. Leave space for later additions.
- Begin your essay with a topic sentence that indicates which question you are answering and that provides a clear answer to the question. Follow with main ideas that support your answer. Provide examples and facts to further explain and prove your main points. End with a concluding sentence.
- Go back to proof-read.
- Study for essay tests by thinking of possible questions and preparing answers for them. Practice writing essays in the same amount of time you will have in the exam period.
- If you don't know the answer to a question, start writing some things that are relevant. This may jog your memory and enable you to write an answer. If not, you may at least get a few points for what you have written.
- Remember, this essay exam is the instructor's way of finding out how much you know. Don't hesitate to explain as though you were writing to someone who knows nothing about the subject. If you are too brief, your knowledge will not be evident. Keep the content "meaty", however; don't add "fluff"!
Some Key Words in Essay Questions
Analyze - Separate into parts and discuss the parts.
Compare & Contrast - Show similarities and differences.
Criticize - Give an opinion concerning the good points and bad points of something.
Define - Give a definition and in so doing separate it from similar things.
Describe - Explain clearly, giving characteristics or distinctive features.
Discuss - Consider and evaluate as many details as possible, giving pros and cons.
Evaluate - Give an opinion about the value or quality of something, giving the positive and negative sides.
Explain - Give reasons and causes.
Illustrate - Give examples.
Interpret - Explain the meaning and/or comment on a subject, using your judgment.
Justify - Give reasons for your conclusions prove that something is valid.
List - Number the items.
Prove - Present factual evidence, logical or mathematical proof.
Relate - Show how things are connected.
Review - Reexamine, summarize or critique something.
Show - Point out or demonstrate.
Summarize - Extract the meaning and briefly repeat in your own words the main points.
Support - Argue in favor or, give reasons and proof for your opinion.
Trace - Show the progress or cause and effect of some event.