Good Test-Taking Skills

August 4, 2020

In college, there are a lot of opportunities for socializing, getting to understand the college campus, and learning new things about yourself. One of the things you might discover is how you react to taking a college-level test. For many students, the idea of tests, exams, midterms and finals can be confusing and a little bit nerve-wracking. Luckily, college tests don't have to be scary, because there is a lot you can do to prepare ahead of time.

Get Organized

Preparing for a test, online or in-person, means more than an all-night study session the night before. Take time before the test, ideally, a few weeks, to understand the material, ask questions in class, and take notes to remember what you've learned. Figuring out the best way you learn is important because it will help you decide how you want to take notes. Some people use flashcards, write their notes over again, type them up, or create drawings and graphics to help synthesize the information. If you need help with a specific area of the course, consider getting a tutor, talking with the instructor or reviewing with classmates. Some students share class notes and review virtually! Multiple short review sessions are more helpful than one long review session the night before the test.

Before the Test

Make sure you've reviewed your own notes, and any study guides the instructor may have given. Pay attention to specific points the instructor brings up in class prior to the exam and make sure you understand these well. Review past tests you've had with the instructor to familiarize yourself with the style of exam if possible. Once you feel like you've studied as well as you can, get some sleep! Make sure to get a good night's rest the night before the test, and try to eat something. Fresh fruits and vegetables are often recommended to reduce stress.

During the Test

Depending on the type of test being given, you may have multiple-choice questions to answer, fill-in-the-blank questions, or essay questions. For multiple choice questions, eliminating options you know to be incorrect can help narrow down your answer.  If you do not know the answer to a question, you can skip it, and come back to it later. For essay questions, organize your thoughts with a short outline of the topic and key introductory words. Next, paraphrase the original question from your introductory statement. This will help you build your thesis and supporting paragraphs. Make sure to keep track of the time so you are able to finish in the allocated time. Talk with your instructor if you need more time, or have questions.

If you are looking for support with academics, colleges and universities have offices dedicated to helping students with study skills, tutoring, academic accommodations, and more.