When taking tests

Here are some strategies for taking tests and quizzes.

First, write your name on the test

There is no excuse for forgetting this, and some teachers will lower your grade if you forget.

Don’t think that you have to take the test in the order the questions are written. Look ahead to see what kind of questions there are. Are there diagrams or graphs with information that would be useful on other questions? Look at the essay question, and keep it in mind when doing other questions.

Hard Start—Jump to Easy

This one’s from A Mind for Numbers. Start off answering the hardest questions. Maybe an essay question, or something that tends to show up at the end. Work on that for a few minutes. When you hit a road block, move on to easier questions. Then, when you get a bit of motivation, or a spark of inspiration, return to the hard question.

Fully read questions

Make sure that you read each question carefully. Don’t see a key word and jump to answering, you may miss something important. In fact, read each question twice.

What extra function does the right atrium of the heart do?

If you glance at the question you may answer “The right atrium collects deoxygenated blood and pumps it to the right ventricle”. While this statement is correct, it doesn’t answer the question that was asked. The correct answer is “The wall of the right atrium contains the heart’s pacemaker. It detects the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood, and if it gets high it signals the heart to beat faster”.

Fill in the blank

How many times have you been working on a fill in the blank question and you think of the wrong word; you know it’s the wrong one so you keep thinking; then on a later question you need the word you thought of, but now you can’t remember it? Make your own word bank. Add words that have to do with the material, and add words whenever you think of one. You can start the word bank before answering any questions while you may still remember what you were trying to cram before the test was handed out. Don’t cross words out when you use them, because you may need them again on later questions. If you’re taking a test on a computer (more common these days), ask the teacher for some paper after the test has started; I don’t know why any teacher would refuse. Use that to write the word bank.

Answer essays in your head

It’s easy to get caught up in the test and start answering essay questions right away. Resist this temptation. Think of the question. Reread it to make sure that you know what it’s asking. Then answer it in your head without writing anything down. Imagine that you are meeting someone who doesn’t know this topic, but is interested. Explain the answer to your imaginary friend (silently). When you’ve done that, you will have a better answer than if you started writing at once. Write down your improved answer.

Don’t expect to always use recall

Don’t expect that the teacher will have taught everything on the test. All you’d need then is simple recall, and memorizing facts would be enough. That’s not going to be enough anymore. Your teacher will include questions where you will have to make connections between things that you’ve learned and come up with something new.

What would some symptoms be for a person who has had a heart attack and the pacemaker has been damaged?

You’ve answered them all! Don’t hand it in just yet.

There may be questions that you’re unsure of. Mark them. I put a dash before these question as I’m taking a test. If your using a computer, ask for some blank paper and write those question numbers down. Then I return to these questions when I’ve finished. Later questions will frequently include hints on what the correct answers are for earlier questions. Perhaps they will help narrow down the choices of multiple choice questions, or will give you a good clue for a fill in the blank question. Go over the test again, looking for where one question will help you answer another.

Final check

Did you fill in your name? Did you answer all questions? The teacher will mark anything you didn’t answer as wrong.

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