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Shepard Academic Resource Center: Tips for Taking Tests
Possibly nothing is as stressful for freshmen as their first college test. How to study, how much to study, when to study, and what to study can be difficult to decipher the first time out. Follow these tips to help you prepare for your test and exams:
Preparing for the test:
Review your lecture notes. First, pay attention and take good notes during class lectures. Then, review them thoroughly. Most professors ask some questions based on their lectures or class discussions.
Do the assigned reading. Most professors who assign readings will include exam questions on material covered in the textbooks.
Review old exams. If they are available, old exams are a good source of possible questions, especially if your professor is still using the same course materials as when the old exam was made. As professors change books and course format, the old exams become less useful.
Study with other students in the same course. Discuss the material together and ask each other questions. You will be able to share information and clarify things that you don’t understand.
- Know what the exam covers and what kind of exam it will be. If you don’t know what material will be covered or if the exam will include multiple choice questions or essays, ask the instructor.
Read directions carefully. Be sure you know what you are supposed to do. If it’s not clear, ask the instructor.
See how long the exam is. Pace your progress so you have time for all parts. You might want to do the essay questions first. Don’t spend too much time on questions you can’t answer. Move on to those you can answer. Come back to the ones you didn’t answer, if you have time later.
Try to leave time at the end to review any question that you had doubts about.
Read questions carefully. You should know what you are being asked to do, answer, write about, or respond to.
In multiple-choice questions, you are being asked to select the best alternative or group of alternatives. Eliminate the obviously incorrect answers and then read the other choices one at a time with the question first. Select the best alternative. Be careful, sometimes multiple-choice questions ask you to select the incorrect choice.
In essay questions, be sure you do what is asked. If the question says give example, give some. Watch for key words in essay questions, such as compare, discuss, contract, and describe. These words point to what the instructor will look for in your answer. Outline you essay before you write. This will keep you on the topic and you will be more likely to include all the points that you have in mind. Write your essay neatly—it may influence your grade. Define the terms you use. Use examples—this helps show that you know what you are writing about. If you run out of time, direct the reader to your outline—you may still get points for what you did not write.
Ask your instructor abut anything that is unclear.
- Prepare yourself emotionally and physically for the exam. Don’t start out assuming you’re going to fail. Be positive. Eat a healthy snack. Get a good night’s sleep before the exam. If you go into the exam exhausted from staying up all night studying, you probably won’t do as well on the exam as if you were well-rested.
For more information about preparing for and taking tests, make an appointment with one of the Shepard Academic Resource Center's Learning Assistance Counselors.