How to Prepare for an Exam
A word to the wise:
Tests are unavoidable. While we are in school they are a regular activity and when we are professionals they become a part of our educational upgrades and certifications. Even though we all know it is inevitable we will do a test at some point, we always seem to end up overwhelmed when the time comes. Take good notes, have a functional study space, study, take breaks when needed, and get enough sleep the night before to be prepared for your next big test!
It all starts with studying:
- First and foremost, make sure you have enough time to study! Leaving it until the last minute is never a good idea.
- Create a good study space. Somewhere you can focus without distraction. Do NOT study while watching TV.
- Before starting to study, quickly write down everything you can remember about the exam topic.
- Review what you’ve written and look for holes in your knowledge.
- Review your class notes to begin studying. Remember to focus a little extra on the areas you previously could not remember.
- If there have been any previous exams provided, take some time to practice with those exams before taking the real one.
- Once you’ve had a chance to study alone, sit down with a class friend or a smart student in your class to do some study exercises together.
- Teach what you’ve learned. If you find another student who is struggling or behind on their studying, use that to your advantage. One of the best ways to memorize something is by teaching it to someone else!
- Remember to take breaks, eat healthy and exercise. Studies have shown links between exercise and improved memory.
- Prepare for test day! Get enough sleep, eat a good meal before hand, arrive early and make sure you have everything you require to complete the test!
Long Answer Test Tips:
Assuming you’ve already completed your studying, here are some tips for answering your long answer test questions.
- If there are multiple questions, make sure you determine how much time you can spend on each question. If there are 3 questions to answer in 1 hour, aim for 15 minutes per question. This will give yourself some time at the end to focus on a difficult question or review your answers.
- Read the instructions carefully and answer the questions as instructed.
- Pick a format. Even though it’s not a formal essay, long answers on tests are usually best answered in essay format to make the marking easier for the teacher. You don’t want to lose marks by being disorganized. Use an introduction, provide evidence and examples, finish off with an analysis/conclusion.
- Get to the point. Don’t confuse the teacher with unnecessary writing. Stay focused and hit the key points.
- If you don’t know the answer, try jotting down a few concepts you think may be the answer to jog your memory. If you are still stuck, pick the best answer you can think of and answer the question in the same format as above. You may earn partial marks.
- Reread your answered before handing the test in. You may catch a mistake or think of something you previously forgot.
Short Answer Test Tips:
Assuming you’ve already completed your studying, here are some tips for answering your short answer test questions.
- Bring a watch with you. You obviously cannot have your phone out during an exam and looking at the big clock and be stressful. Use your watch to make sure you are not spending to much time on any questions.
- Read the directions and questions carefully. Teachers will sometimes give you the options to answer only 2 out of 3 questions or 5 out of 7. If you don’t read carefully, you might end up wasting your time on a question you didn’t need to answer!
- Answer the question as required. If the question asks you to list the key points, make a list. If the question asks you to do a calculation, provide the entire calculation so that the teacher can mark you for each of the steps.
- If you don’t know the answer off the top of your head, circle it and move on.
- If you aren’t sure about an answer, focus on the concepts and key topics.
- Unless you have been instructed that questions are not allowed during the exam, ask for clarification on anything that is confusing to you or holding you up.
- Make an educated guess. Once you’ve finished everything you know, go back to the circled questions and try your best. Never leave a questioned unanswered. If you make an effort and show some understanding of the concept, part marks are often given.
Multiple-Choice Test Tips:
The first thing I do on a multiple-choice test is determine how much time I have for each question. Assuming its 60 questions and you have 1 hour to complete it, you would want to spend 50 seconds per question. This will allow you to have 10 minutes at the end to review and go back to any difficult questions you were stuck on.
- Read the directions carefully
- Read the whole question.
- Try to think of the answer before reading the multiple-choice answers. (this will keep you from being tricked by a similar answer)
- If you can’t recall the exact answer read the choices.
- Eliminate any answers that are clearly wrong.
- If “all of the above” is a possible answer and you think that 2 of 3 answers are correct but can’t remember the last one, its likely that “all of the above” is correct.
- On “true or false” questions, focus on the absolute or qualifying words such as: never, none, always, most, often. These words will help you determine the correct answer.
- If you are stuck on a question, circle the question and move on.
Once you’ve finished all the questions you know the answer to it’s time to address the ones you circled earlier. It’s time to start guessing!
The Art of Guessing:
While I was in school there was a rule of thumb we always followed. If you don’t know the answer, pick C! It was our assumption that C was the most used, so it was the best choice. After looking into it recently, it turns out that’s not the case.
The reason you should pick C is because if you pick randomly every time, you may pick the wrong answer…every time. However, if you pick C every time, you are more likely to guess the answer correctly on at least one of them. This could work with any letter though. If your name is Bob, pick B every time you don’t know the answer.
The benefit of this is that each time you choose a consistent letter, you have a 25% chance of getting the correct answer. Not horrible, but definitely not great. So how can we increase our chances?
Eliminate. If you can eliminate 1 answer that you are absolutely sure is incorrect, your “guess” now has a 33% chance of being correct. If you can eliminate 2 answers before guessing, you increase your change to 50%!
I hope these tips and tricks help you on your next exam. Let us know what worked for you and what didn’t. And if you have any other study tips, let us know in the comments so we can add it to the list!