Testing demonstrates your knowledge and mastery of course content. However, there are several factors that can affect your performance. Use the tips and strategies in this section to help you build your confidence and ace your tests.
Start with general test taking basics that apply to all types of tests. Then, use the objective and subjective strategies below to further refine your approach.
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Download PDF versions of our Ace Tests handouts below.
General Test Taking
Objective Test Taking
Examining Returned Tests
Top 10 Tips for Finals Week
- Confirm your exam details (time, date, location, materials).
- Identify study times and distraction-free locations.
- Organize your study materials.
- Schedule multiple Focused Study Sessions per day.
- Use active learning strategies (concept mapping, summarizing, working problems, etc.)
- Study with other motivated students to help you stay alert and keep you on track.
- Create mock tests to test yourself or be able to teach the material.
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Eat healthy foods (avoid too much sugar or caffeine).
- Practice stress-reducing techniques (deep breathing, exercise, visualization, positive self-talk).
Test Taking Basics
There are some things that are good practice for every type of test you take. Use our General Test Taking Strategies handout to help you succeed on a variety of test formats regardless of the subject.
|Find out the details||
Is your exam taking place in-person or online? If it is online, what platform will administer the exam, and how do you log into this platform? Is the exam scheduled for a specific day and time, or are you able to schedule it from a range of available dates? (Schedule your time as soon as you’re able to schedule!)
Answers to these questions will likely vary from class to class, so be sure to write down the information in an organized way. (Your syllabus or professor will provide these testing details.)
|Do an equipment check||If your exam is online, make sure you have the appropriate software and hardware. For example, ProctorU has a hardware check tool. Reach out to a campus resource early if you need equipment or other resources. If your exam is in-person, then be sure to bring needed materials such as a pencil, blue book, and/or calculator.|
|Do a brain dump||Write down formulas, processes, or outlines as soon as possible. This clears your mind for thinking rather than storing information. It also eases the stress of worrying and forgetting.|
|Preview the test||If possible, look over the total number of items and identify point values so you can judge the amount of time you should spend on each item. Focus on the questions that receive the most credit.|
|Read directions carefully||It is a mistake to ignore test directions. Directions provide information you need to get full credit and to mark answers correctly. If possible, underline key terms and number the steps in the directions.|
|Answer the easiest questions first||This builds confidence and may trigger your memory for other information. If you run out of time, then you will have answered the questions you knew.|
|Attempt every question||Expect to experience memory blocks. Mark questions you don’t know and go on. Return to these questions when time permits, even if only to guess. Remember, you may get partial credit. Use positive self-talk to get through periods of anxiety.|
|Find a quiet place||Just like when you’re studying, it’s important to select a distraction-limited environment while you’re testing online.|
|Know and use your tools||Depending on your online testing platform, you may have access to a variety of tools. For example, maybe you have an online calculator in your math exam platform.|
|Don’t leave the test page or click the back button||This may result in the loss of your answers! Be careful where you click and how you scroll through the screen.|
|If you have technical issues, don’t panic||Anything from spotty Wi-Fi to the exam platform crashing can cause a disruption. If a technical issue happens, contact your instructor immediately.|
Objective Test Taking Strategies
Objective style questions appear on many exams across content areas. These are questions that have a definitive right answer, which can include multiple choice, matching, and true/false type questions. This Objective Test Taking Strategies handout (Accessible Version) will provide tips and strategies for this type of questioning.
- Read the question only and quickly gather your thoughts before reading the possible answers.
- Read all choices before answering.
- Cross out choices you know are incorrect.
- Eliminate grammatically incorrect answers.
- Watch for two answers that mean the same thing.
- If a question confuses you, consider the question and each answer as a true/false question.
- Use what you know to analyze and make decisions about information.
- Make sure a statement is completely true before answering true.
- Watch for words such as always, never, seldom, or usually.
- Use the rest of the test for information to help you answer.
- If in doubt; go with your intuition.
- Use the side with the longest responses as the question on matching tests. Use the shorter responses as the answer column. This will save some time.
- Try to determine the relationships between the columns on matching exams. Sometimes they focus more on dates, locations, events, people, causes, effects, and so forth. Identifying the relationships helps you focus your thoughts in an organized manner.
- Watch for double negatives. Negative times negative equals positive.
- For example, consider the phrase “not unimportant.” Something that is “not unimportant” is important.
- When all else fails, guess. Never leave a question blank. Try to devise an answer in your own words. Then look for a matching response. If none exists, make an educated guess.
- Review your exam before turning it in.
Subjective and Essay Test Taking Strategies
Providing a detailed response to a writing prompt in a timed setting can be intimidating. Our Subjective and Essay Tips can help you write an effective response and ace that essay.
Examine Returned Tests
Review your returned tests to assess your study and test-taking skills, and to decide
which of your strategies work.
Use this information to improve future test performance and reduce the stress of taking the next exam in the course.
After an exam, learning from missed questions can help you in the future. When possible, review your graded exam – you may have to meet with your instructor during office hours. Use the Examine Returned Tests tool to assist in your post-test evaluation.