For many people, test taking is an anxiety producing event.  It doesn't have to be!  There are strategies and techniques that you can learn to reduce the stress of tests.  Read on for tips on taking classroom exams.

  • When preparing for an exam, keep a positive and healthy attitude. If you are well prepared, you should at least pass the exam, and probably will do much better than that.  Relax, allow yourself to get down to the business at hand and show what you know.
  • Advance preparation is the key!  If you have gone to every class, completed all reading and other assignments, reviewed your notes and studied the material in small chunks of time each day, you will be prepared.  Keeping up is working smarter, not harder.  If you keep up with assignments, studying for an exam will involve only a thorough review and tying together of familiar materials.  Frantic last minute cramming usually undermines confidence and results in faulty remembering while advance preparation builds confidence. A major secret of college success is to begin study and review early in the term.
  • Research the test.  Know what kind of test it will be, understand the big picture, and know the main points and key facts.  For fill-in-the-blank, true/false, matching, or multiple-choice tests you need to know more detailed information.
  • Organize your study time.  Make a plan and stick with it to the best of your ability.  If the material seems overwhelming, break it down into smaller parts.  Master one part at a time.  Always allow more time than you think you'll need and plan for short breaks and/or rewards.
  • Learn how to study.  Know what the test is going to cover.  Most of the information on a test has already been covered in class, so take good notes and study them regularly.  Be alert during the class period before a test.  This is the prime time for instructors to review information that will be important for you to know.  Have all reading done in advance and study your reading and lecture notes and any handouts or study guides until you feel confident you know the material.  Be sure you understand the material you are trying to remember.  It's difficult to remember something you don't understand.  Don't be afraid to ask the instructor to explain a concept that is not clear.

    To see if you really know the material, explain it in your own words to someone else or to yourself in front of a mirror.  Form a small study group and take turns teaching material to be covered in the test.  Make up test questions and exercises.
  • Guidelines For Taking The Test 
    1. Avoid any additional pressure, show up on time or early with all the equipment you will need (pencils, pens, calculator, etc.).  Use the rest room before you arrive and don't come in hungry or thirsty.  Get plenty of rest the night before so you will be at your best.
    2. As soon as you receive the test, listen closely to any verbal instructions and read the written test directions carefully.  Use the top of the test or the margins to very lightly pencil in any dates, equations, formulas, or memory cues you don't want to risk forgetting.
    3. Scan the entire test and formulate a plan of attack.  Plan your time according to the value of each question or section.  Look at points for each question and determine the importance that should be given to each section.  Devote 50% of your time to the part of the test that is worth 50% of the credit.  Don't waste ten minutes on a question worth only two points.  Allow a few minutes at the end of the period to check over your answers.
    4. Read carefully but move quickly through the test marking with a dot or a light check any answers you're not sure of.  You can go back to those you marked and try them again.  Don't panic if you don't know the answers to the first few questions.  Go on to one you do know and start there.  Rephrase questions you have trouble with.  It may help for you to break the sentence into parts if you have trouble understanding it.  As you work, check your watch and notice when your time limit for each section is up.  Students sometimes get so involved in completing one section, they fail to complete the other sections.
    5. Check your work!  Once you are finished, spend any remaining time reading over the test again.  Check all your answers, even the ones that you think are correct.  You may have read a question wrong or made a careless mistake. Remember, you don't get bonus points for finishing early and being the first to leave the room!  Your first instinct is usually correct, don't change answers unless there is a penalty for an incorrect answer.  In that case only answer if you can narrow your choices down to two.
    6. When you get your test back go over all the questions you missed and if you get to keep the test, write in the correct answers.  Previous tests are great study tools for finals.  Also check to make sure your test was graded correctly. Instructors are human and can make mistakes!  Keep all returned tests and quizzes organized in a file or folder.
  • Reflect on learning.  Look beyond your grade.  Tests can guide you to future success.  By looking at what you've learned and haven't learned you'll be in a better position to know what to focus on before the final.  If you find you do better on some types of test questions than others, you can work toward improvement of skills on the types of questions that gave you trouble.  If you lost points due to careless errors or misreading the directions you can make a point to read very carefully and check thoroughly in the future.  Don't look at a poor test grade as failure.  Consider it a wake-up call for examination of your study skills and test taking techniques and a challenge to make positive changes.