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Strategies for Test-Taking

By Natalie Umberger

When you take a test, you are demonstrating your ability to understand course material or perform certain tasks. Successful test taking avoids carelessness. These suggestions may help you avoid careless errors!


  • Analyze how you did on a similar test in the past.
  • Arrive early for tests. Before a test, list everything you will need for it that is allowed (pencils/pens, calculator, dictionary, watch, etc.). Good preparation helps you focus on the task at hand.
  • Be comfortable and alert.
  • Stay relaxed and confident. Keep a good attitude and remind yourself that you are well-prepared and are going to do well. Don’t talk about the test to other students just before entering the room: their anxiety can be contagious.

During the test:

  • Read the directions carefully
  • If there is time, quickly look through the test for an overview: not terms and jot down brief notes if you can.
  • Look for the central idea of each question. What is the main point?
  • Look for helpful key words like always, never, none, except, most, least. Underline key words if you’re allowed to write on the test paper.
  • Look for clues. Sometimes answers are hinted at on other test questions.
  • Try to supply your own answer to a multiple choice question before you look at the options.
  • Answer questions in a strategic order: answer each questions first and then difficult questions. Make sure to go back and make sure didn’t skip any questions!!
  • Don’t change your original answer unless you’re completely sure it’s wrong. Our first instinct is usually right!
  • If all else fails and you have to guess an answer, then and only then consider this advice:
    • The length of the choices is sometimes a clue. When guessing, pick the long answer- it is easier for instructors to write short wrong answers than long ones.
    • If two choices are very similar, choose neither.
    • If two choices are opposite, choose one of them.
    • The most general alternative is frequently the right answer.

Decide on and adopt study strategies that work best for you. Review your test preparation and identify those habits that worked well and replace those that don’t!



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Strategies for Test-Taking (pdf)