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16 Test Taking Strategies for Better Grades
Do you find yourself worried about an upcoming test or exam? Taking tests can be difficult and stressful, especially if you have issues taking tests or are unprepared. Good test-taking skills are honed over time...

Do you find yourself worried about an upcoming test or exam? What if you had some test taking strategies? Would they help you get better grades? Taking tests can be difficult and stressful, especially if you have issues taking tests or are unprepared. Good test-taking skills are honed over time and become your own tool set of test taking strategies. Solid study habits are the best way to start. If you get sweaty palms the night before a big exam or go completely blank when you're handed the test, these tips will help you improve your test-taking skills.

Studying Skills

Start with upping your study game to gain test taking strategies you didn't know you had. The more you can study and absorb the information, the better you will recall the details during your test. Try these practical tips and tricks for better studying:

Get Answers Early

If you can't answer a question, write it down and ask your teacher. Ensure that you have your questions answered at least three days prior to a minor exam and at least two weeks before a big test.

Find a Quiet Spot

Study in a secluded location. Music, television, or even the sound of traffic can make studying difficult. Find a quiet area to study if your residence or dorm is noisy. If you can't find a calm place, wear noise-canceling headphones and listen to soft music.

Study a Little Each Day

Study a small amount of material each day. Your brain requires time to process the information, so aim to study for about 30 minutes each day for about a week specifically preparing for the test. It is more effective than a hurried cram session. After each session, celebrate your focus and perseverance. Enjoy a video game session, take a bath, or do something else you enjoy.

Speak It, Write It

Repeat the material in writing and aloud. Using different aspects of your brain will help you learn the material more quickly. Describe the most important details to retain them. Describe the topic to another person, or do it in the mirror. Create flashcards with questions on the front and answers on the back. These types of test taking strategies can be the most effective.

Preparing for Essay Questions

Practice essay questions. In preparing for essays, only take the time to write out entire papers if you know the test topic. Instead, summarize the major themes of the class. Only write in bullet points the major points in between.

Take Scheduled Breaks

Give yourself a break while applying these test taking strategies. A short break occasionally will keep you refreshed and focused. Take a two-minute break every 15 minutes or a 10-minute break every hour, whichever keeps you most focused.

Test Prep Hints

As the testing day draws near, there are things you can do to prep for it. These tips and tricks can put your mind at ease as the big day approaches.

Pack Your Gear

Choose your pencils and pens wisely. On test day, having the right tools keeps everything running smoothly. Pack these essentials in your backpack for test day:

  1. Pack a pair of sturdy No. 2 pencils made of natural wood. A challenging test can make you push harder while writing and mechanical or weak pencils can break. Always have a backup!
  2. Carry a pencil sharpener. If you're filling out machine-read bubble forms, keep one pencil dull; it fills in the ovals faster.
  3. If you write in pen, pick one that writes freely without leaving ink splotches. Avoid click pens, which can irritate other test-takers.
  4. Bring bottled water with you to the test if it's allowed.

Get Plenty of Sleep

No matter how tempting it seems, last-minute cramming never works. Your brain, muscles, and eyes all need sufficient rest. You'll have a much more difficult time on the test if you're exhausted. Eight or nine hours are ideal but get at least six hours of sleep.

Eat Smart

Those who eat breakfast on test day get higher average scores than those who don't, especially on math tests. Pasta, oatmeal, or whole-grain bread will give you enough energy to get through the test. Top off the meal with vitamins and protein, like fruits, yogurt, and eggs. Overeating before the test can make you sleepy or uncomfortable. And avoid sugary foods, which can cause you to crash. Who knew what we eat could be an important part of our test taking strategies.

Steer Clear of Stimulants

Take nicotine and caffeine with caution. These stimulants can make you more alert, but consuming too much can make you jittery, unfocused, or nauseous. Caffeine can make you have to pee during the test, so only drink a small amount if you are allowed bathroom breaks.

Reduce Stress

Some people find it best to refrain from studying or reviewing the day before the exam because the extra information can blur your memory. The best thing to do the day before any crucial exam is to relax and avoid stressful situations.

Taking the Test

You've finally made it to test day. Are you prepared? If you've followed along with these test taking strategies, accordingly, thus far, you should be in good shape for the exam. When the big day arrives, incorporate these ideas into your test prep.

Get Warmed Up

Warm up before the exam. Five minutes of preparation before the test begins can lead to increased confidence. Instead of waiting for anxiety to take over, use flash cards. Alternatively, have a fellow student quiz you. However, don't attempt this if you're too anxious to concentrate. Instead, breathe deeply and extend your arms and legs. It may alleviate stress, increase awareness, and increase blood flow before the exam.

If you're anxious, sit up straight and take several deep breaths from your abdomen. Chat with a friend, stretch your arms, or think about your favorite book or movie. Anything pleasant to think about will help to calm you down.

Pick Your Seat

Choose a comfortable seat. If you can choose your seats, look for one away from classmates who distract you or waste time. Sitting next to an open window can ease your nerves if the breeze is comfortable.

Build Your Confidence First

Read each question several times. Make sure you know what to do before answering the question. Pre-read the test and answer the most straightforward questions to build confidence. It's OK to skip a question if you're unsure of the answer. Jot down the number of that question in the corner of your paper. After answering the questions you know, review the list of skipped questions and try your best to answer as many as possible.

Eliminate Wrong Answers

For multiple-choice questions, think about each option one by one. Eliminate the choices you know are wrong. If there are two or more possible answers, you'll have to guess one. Unless you're told an incorrect answer will lose points, making a guess is better than leaving the question unanswered.

One Final Review

Review your answers a final time. If you've finished the test and have time, look over each question again. You may recall something new or discover you've made a mistake. Try not to second-guess yourself. If you keep wavering between two answers and feel yourself panicking, leave it as-is and move on. If you're stuck on a question, reread other questions on the same topic. Sometimes, another question will give away the answer.