College Success Tip #7
What is test taking?
Successful test taking involves specific strategies
before and during a test. These strategies will allow you to gauge how
much time to spend preparing for a test, the most productive ways to
spend your time preparing, the most effective locations to prepare for
tests, and how to prepare for different types of tests commonly given in
Why is test taking important?
Employing effective test-taking strategies will
improve test grades.
Examples of test taking strategies for all
Before the test, remember the following:
Study in a location that is quiet and private.
Review your class notes, books, and study guides on a daily basis
(Procrastinating until the night before the test and then cramming
is the least effective strategy).
Review your class notes, books, and study guides on a weekly basis.
Study in chunks (20-50 minutes) separated by breaks (5-10 minutes).
Ask your instructor what to expect on the test, the format of the
test, how to review, and if review questions are available.
Engage in collaborative learning by forming study groups to test
each other, compare notes, brainstorm and anticipate test questions,
During the test, remember the following:
Read the directions carefully.
Answer the easiest questions first.
Ask yourself if your final answer makes sense to you.
Pace yourself by tracking time.
For short essays exams, answer each question exactly by changing it
into a topic sentence and retaining as much of the question as
possible and then creating a brief outline.
Question: What is a theme of Hamlet by William Shakespeare?
Topic Sentence: One theme of Hamlet by William Shakespeare is
. . .
Outline: briefly outline the order of your ideas before starting.
cheat or plagiarize, regardless of how unprepared you find
Examples of test taking strategies for math
Begin preparing early
Pay attention during class: every minute you daydream in class is
many more minutes of studying later.
Do assigned homework problems: math is a building process and in
order to understand the next step you need to comprehend the present
and previous ones.
Simulate test conditions
After you have studied and think you know the material, practice it
under test conditions.
Solve unassigned homework problems and see if you can finish them in
the allotted time for the exam.
Know your professor
Study a copy of the exam of a previous class if available. If not
available, ask for a copy of a previous class exam
Form a study group of 3-4 dedicated students
Not only will other students be able to help you with problems, but
by helping others you will better learn the material. If you are
unable teach another student a topic you believe you know, chances
are you don't know that topic very well after all. If you can't
teach it, you don't know it!
Carefully read the instructions
Make sure you are answering the question that is being asked!
Often students know how to solve a problem, but they misread or
misinterpret the question itself.
Check that you have correctly rewritten the problem
If you use a scratch piece of paper make sure that you correctly
rewrite the problem.
Don't skip steps. Start from the beginning.
Clearly write each step of the solution
Be neat and don't rush writing numbers down.
checking your solution as you are working.
Neatness makes it easier to recheck your work.
Don't Dilly Dally
If you get stuck on a problem, move on and come back to it later.
When you are finished, recheck all your work.
The Tutoring, Learning, and Computing Lab provides
tutoring and assistance with assignments, and test anxiety workshops:
The Cougar Mentor program offers student success seminars
on various topics, including test taking:
Dartmouth College provides tips on how to study:
Study Guides and Strategies, http://www.studygs.net/index.htm,
offers several useful handouts on taking tests:
10 tips for test taking,
multiple choice tests,
short answer tests,
open book exams,
oral exams, and
The Community College Experience by Amy Baldwin (Pearson/Prentice
Cornerstone: Building on Your Best, 4th Ed., by
Robert M. Sherfield, Rhonda J. Montgomery, and Patricia G. Moody
(Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2005).
Becoming a Master Student, 10th Ed., by Dave
Ellis (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003).
Study Guides and Strategies,
Dartmouth’s Academic Skills Center, http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/success/index.html.