There are many factors involved in being a good test taker, and while preparation may the single most important predictor of success on tests, there are techniques students can learn and use while taking tests that have been shown to have small, positive impacts on exam grades (Wark & Flippo, 1991). Bring everything you need. Prepare ahead of time. Arrive Early. Don’t sit near the panic-stricken or anxious people – it’s contagious! Take a few deep breaths & relax.

Test Taking


When you receive the exam:

  • Read through the entire thing and estimate how much time you’ll spend on each question.
  • Pace yourself based on the amount of points questions are worth.
  • 2 minute drill. Brain dump. Unload any information, equations or other information that’s in your head in case you forget it later. Don’t take more than 1-2 minutes to do this.

As you’re answering questions:

  • READ EACH QUESTION (and the instructions) THOROUGHLY.
  • Circle key words, absolute words, or rephrase questions to make them into statements.
  • Answer ALL parts of the question.

When you get stuck:

  • Mark that question to come back to and move on to the next question.
  • Think back to your study session – can you recall anything related to that topic?
  • Look for clues in other questions.
  • Engage your learning preference (think about visuals, auditory cues, examples, etc)
  • Think about the question from the instructor’s point of view – what knowledge do they want you to demonstrate here?

See the big picture:

  • Develop a system for going through the test to make sure you don’t miss any questions, and that you answer everything.
  • Leave time to double check your answers, in particular on computational problems.
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