Test Taking Techniques
- Be sure you understand the question before reading on to the answer choices.
- Try to formulate a correct answer before looking at the answer choices.
- You can usually eliminate one or two answers right away.
- If two answers seem similar, reread the question to determine the focus, as sometimes the difference between two similar answers is a matter of emphasis.
- The entire statement must be true for the answer to be true; if it is partly true and partly false, the answer will be false.
- Avoid answering true for “all or nothing” statements; if you can come up with one exception to “all” or “every”, the answer is false.
Fill in the Blank (Cloze) Questions:
- Read the question first, substituting “blank” for the missing word.
- Try to complete the response on your own before looking at the answer choices.
- If necessary, read the question substituting various responses in the blank to “hear” which choice works correctly.
- Be clear as to whether answers are used once and only once.
- Match those you are sure of first, then use the process of elimination for the rest.
- When matching terms and definitions, read the definition clues, then match those with the correct term; it is easier to scan down the list of terms for the correct answer than to read through multiple definition options for each new word on the list.
- Read the question carefully. Most ask for specific details.
- Note key words in the question and any specifics about answer length (e.g. “In 3-5 sentences explain two causes of …”).
- Be sure your answer reflects understanding, not just rote memorization, of information.
- Word the answer as concisely as possible while still being complete.
- Read and follow instructions carefully.
- Know what is being asked for by the use of verbs such as explain, discuss, enumerate, contrast, compare, justify, describe, trace, evaluate, or summarize.
- Make use of a “brain dump.” Brainstorm and jot down points when you first get the test so that you’ll remember them once you start writing.
- Systematically plan your answer (make an outline or concept map).
- Start with a strong statement and use good transitions to show the relationship of ideas. Be complete and thorough, but not wordy. Use instructor’s key words and phrases. Write neatly.
- When you are finished, reread the question and reread your answer to make sure you have covered everything.
Math or Science Questions:
- Determine at the beginning what information the question gives you and what it asks you to figure out.
- Draw a picture or diagram if it will help you.
- Pay attention to units and be sure to include the appropriate labels in your answers.
- Do as much as you can as well as you can on problems with which you struggle; partial credit is better than no credit.
Troubleshooting Test Errors
What if you get a test back and it has a low grade? Never waste a poor test grade! The next time that happens, go through your test and, using the scenarios and possibilities below, evaluate why you missed a particular question. The information you uncover in this process may reveal an area where you need to modify your test prep or test-taking strategies for future testing success. If you’re unsure of how to make changes in your methods, ask your instructor or see a Student Success and Academic Advising Center staff member for help.
- I did not read the text thoroughly.
- The information was not in my notes.
- I studied the information but could not remember it.
- I knew main ideas but needed details.
- I knew the information but could not apply it.
- I studied the wrong information.
- I missed class the day the information was taught/discussed.
- I experienced mental block.
- I spent too much time day-dreaming.
- I panicked.
- I was so tired I could not concentrate.
- I was so hungry I could not concentrate.
Lack of Test Wisdom
- I carelessly marked a wrong choice.
- I did not notice limiting words in the question.
- I did not notice a double negative.
- I changed a correct answer to a wrong one.
- I skipped a question/section/page.
- I misread the directions.
- I misread the question.
- I made poor use of time provided.
- I wrote poorly organized responses.
- I wrote incomplete responses.
- I failed to proofread my answer.
(Adapted from Longman and Atkinson (1994). Study Methods and Reading Techniques. St. Paul: West Publishing Co. p 221)