Taking TestsPart 3: Test Taking Strategies - Total Testing Education

Taking Tests
Part 3: Test Taking Strategies

Getting practical with some test taking tips

In the final part of this 3 part series, we’re getting practical with some test-taking tips.

Long-form question strategies

When you get into the test, this is what you do first….read EACH word of the question carefully. We have a habit of reading words in groups, which works well most of the time. BUT in a test, you have test writers who are trying to get you to make a mistake. They write the questions in a way that they hope you will read the words quickly, and miss their little trap. And we’ve all fallen into the trap, right?!  So you’ve been warned – read EVERY question carefully….. twice….. maybe three times.

  1. Identify the type of each question you have in the test.
  2. Mark each question with your priority we talked about earlier.
  3. Now start to answer your favorite questions, followed by your lower-priority questions.
  4. Remember to show all your work and thinking, to give the examiner the best chance to give you more points.
  5. Never write your thoughts and calculations on scratch paper.

Some more strategies

  1. If the question is not a simple one-part question, take the question to pieces. If it contains 3 question parts, write each part on a separate line, one under another. You can now answer each part as a separate question.
  2. If the question requires you to recall information from your memory write it all at the start at the top of the page – call it your brain dump. Just get it down in note form, and then you’ll use it later to answer the question. You can strike it through your notes later, and it will not count as part of your answer.
  3. Some questions will rely on how well you can recall information, as we mentioned above, whereas others may ask you to think, analyze, calculate or critique. Some people prefer to get these questions done first, as the information is fresh from looking it over while they ate breakfast, sat on the bus, or stood outside the test room. With every minute, more and more information is forgotten. So you may want to consider answering those types of questions first, even if they’re not your preferred type.
  4. Here is a personal favorite that I used myself many years ago. Part of my study preparation was to try to reduce my large quantity of class notes to a few sides of paper. I used keywords, acronyms, lists, and whatever it took to get information into a smaller footprint. Here’s the trick – rather than trying to commit all this to memory – all I needed to do was remember it from outside the exam room where I left the review papers in my locker, and then I would spend the first 15 minutes recreating my notes inside the exam room on a piece of scratch paper, from memory, while it was still fresh. I think if I had waited 5 minutes longer, I would not have remembered anything at all! Make sure that it is clear to your proctors, that you did not bring the paper into the room with you, and that you are writing it fresh from memory.
  5. One last thought from my personal trove of exam-taking tricks. Just like you should never leave a question unanswered, in case you get a lucky guess point, so too in long-form questions. If you have a question that requires you to recall, for example, a complex mathematical formula, and you simply can’t remember it, just write down any formula that you can remember. Then do your best to answer the remaining parts of the question, even though it may not make much sense. Hopefully using the error carried through rule we discussed above; you may get a few extra points. Only do this if you have spare time, otherwise concentrate on refining your other answers.

Multiple-choice question strategies

Even though multiple-choice questions seem to be a lot easier than long-form questions, here are a few strategies to help you maximize that grade.

In case you’ve forgotten…your first job is to read the questions carefully, word by word, multiple times!

  1. If you have a test of say 50 questions, write down on a piece of scratch paper, the numbers 1 thru 50.
  2. Each time you answer a question, make a note on your piece of paper next to the question number – if you are confident in the answer put a √ – if you are not confident put a ?, and if you don’t know an answer put an X
  3. After you complete the first time through all 50 questions, look at your scratch list and look back over the questions with an √ to check you got them 100% correct.
  4. Next, go through the questions marked ? and try and answer them fully. You can change the mark from a ? to a √ if you feel the question is now good, or you can leave the ? or change it to an X.
  5. If you have time, try and answer the ? and X questions.
  6. NEVER EVER LEAVE A QUESTION WITHOUT AN ANSWER! In multiple choice tests, you do not lose points for wrong answers. If by the end of the test you are still unsure of answers, always take a guess. You will not lose marks, but you might gain some!
  7. Of the five supplied answers, there’s usually 2 that are obviously wrong and there to confuse you. Try to identify them, and remove them from consideration. Now you should concentrate on the 3 remaining answers that could be candidates.
  8. Some people say that at the end of the test you should see how many of each answer you have, for example, you may have 50 questions and you may answer 7 with A, 10 with B, 12 with C, 6 with D, and 15 with E. They say that there should be about the same number of each, for example 10 A’s, 10 B’s, 10 C’s 10 D’s and 10 E’s. Don’t relay on this, but it may be fin to see if you have extra time available at the end of your test.

Hopefully you got something out of this test taking series, and it will make your test-prep and test-taking more effective and you’ll find that your test taking performance improves.

Good Luck!

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