Study Tip #11
Outline on test-taking techniques
- Read carefully and get the exact meaning of words.
- On multiple-choice tests read all of the answer options before choosing one.
- How to handle a time limit.
- How to handle questions that you do not know the answers to.
- It is safe to change answers.
- You should guess when you are not sure. Don't leave an answer blank.
- How to recall forgotten information.
- How to cope with feeling tired, nervous, pain and other stresses.
- Handle mechanical details carefully.
- What to do when you think your teacher has made a mistake.
- Get more help in test-taking methods.
Objective tests are true-false tests, multiple-choice tests, matching tests and fill-in-the-blank tests. They don't ask you to write an essay. You have to respond to the choices given to you.
There are good techniques that you can use to get the most out of your knowledge. However, remember that nothing beats studying! People who know their subject are able to get much higher scores on tests than people who are good at test-taking but who do not know the subject. So study!
Read carefully and get the exact meaning of words.
This is the most important advice. Read slowly enough that you understand the meaning of everything that your present degree of knowledge allows you to understand.
Read the directions carefully so that you understand them exactly. Do not skip the directions. Follow them!
As you read the test items and the answer options, think of their meanings. There are several ways to know that you understand the meanings. (1) Talk to yourself and translate difficult words into your own words. (2) Make mental images of the ideas. Visualize them. (3) Imagine how things move and feel.
Do not let your worry trick you into reading too fast. Do not skip over confusing phrases. Instead, slow down and figure them out. Do not skim hastily over questions.
On multiple-choice tests read all of the answer options before choosing one.
Why? Because the test might contain two answers that sound good, and only one might be precisely right. You need to check them all.
How to Handle a Time Limit.
- Check the time allowed and the number of questions. Figure out how many questions you have to answer each minute in order to finish. Try to work at that rate.
- Work first on the easier questions.
- Mark the questions that you have not answered and do them later.
- If you finish before the time is up, read over the test again and check your work.
- If some questions are worth more points than others and your time is short, consider doing them first.
How to Handle Questions That You Do Not Know the Answers to.
- Find answer options that you are sure are wrong. Eliminate them. Choose one of the remaining ones.
- Check whether two answer options say the same thing in different words. If they do, it means they both must be wrong, unless you are allowed to pick two correct answers.
- Check whether two answer options directly contradict each other. If they do, you know that one must be wrong. Possibly both. Use contradiction as a clue.
- Use key words as clues. Look for:
ALL ALWAYS EVERY MUST
NEVER NECESSARY NONE ONLY
EXCEPT MAY OFTEN GENERALLY
SELDOM PERHAPS SOMETIMES
- When you see sentences that claim something is ALWAYS or NEVER true, be suspicious. There might be exceptions. The teacher may be overstating a point to try to trick careless students. It is possible, though it is not certain, that an answer option with a word like that will be wrong.
- On the other hand, when you see sentences that say something may be GENERALLY true or PERHAPS true, remember that those words allow for exceptions and may be right.
Be careful! Most teachers know that students know about those words. They might try to trick you.
It is Safe to Change Answers.
Should you change an answer if you are unsure of it? Yes, but not on a whim.
Scientific research proves that people who change answers for a good reason get higher scores than people who stick with the first answer. But be sure you have remembered new information.
You should guess when you are not sure. Don't leave an answer blank.
Why? Because if there are five possible answer options, you have a one-in-five chance of getting it right. If you have ruled out one or two options as wrong, your chances are even higher. But if you do not guess, you have no chance at all. If you guess five times, you may get one or two more right.
Even if the directions tell you that there is a penalty for guessing, you should usually still guess. It will usually improve your score.
Why? Because all that a guessing penalty does is to subtract a certain percentage of wrong answers, and you might be right. The worst that usually happens is that you will come out even. So guess!
How to Recall Forgotten Information.
Sometimes you will read a question and will recognize that you studied that topic but cannot remember it now. You will almost feel the information there. Do not focus on that feeling!
Instead, think about things that you associate with the forgotten fact and that you can remember. Think of other facts and concepts. Also think of the book you read it in, where you were sitting, and what you were seeing when you learned it. Any sight, sound, feeling, or idea that you associate with the forgotten fact is linked with it and may trigger your memory.
After thinking about related information for a little while, go on to other questions. Your unconscious mind will still search. It may give you the answer later.
How to Cope With Feeling Tired, Nervous, Pain and Other Stresses.
When people are under stress but can concentrate, they can do almost as well on tests as when they are relaxed and feeling fit. Your mind may wander. But make sure you keep returning your mind to the test questions. Keep thinking of their meanings. Keep thinking of associations. As long as you can do that, you have a fair chance of succeeding.
If you are jumpy, use your finger or your pencil to guide your eyes along the words of the questions.
Handle mechanical details carefully.
Mark answers carefully. Don't accidentally mark the wrong answer.
If your teacher has you answer on an answer sheet that will be scored by an automatic scoring machine, make your marks heavy and dark. Do not make stray marks elsewhere on the answer, because the machine may mark them as wrong answers. If you have to change an answer, follow the directions carefully so that the machine does not pick up the answer you changed.
What to do if you think the teacher has made a mistake.
Sometimes, teachers do write bad questions. You may read a question and think there are two answers or no answer. Sometimes, you will see ambiguous wording.
If the teacher permits students to ask questions during the test, you should ask!
You may also write a note to the teacher. (Do not write on a machine-scored answer sheet.) You should explain your thinking. Explain why you chose the answer you did, what it meant to you. Explain why you rejected another answer that may be the obvious choice on the surface, but that contains a trap. If you do this, your teacher may give you part credit even if you are partly wrong.
When the teacher returns the test and reports the correct answers, you may wonder why an answer is correct and why your choice is wrong. It is all right to ask respectfully why the teacher thinks it is correct. Don't be hostile. An honest teacher can either explain it or will admit a mistake.
If you still believe that your teacher has penalized you unfairly and will not change, then consult your school's Student Bill of Rights and make a protest.
Get more help on test-taking methods.
Take Effective Learning in the Academic Learning Skills Department. You can also buy one of the commercially published books on test-taking skills.
If text anxiety troubles you, see a counselor. There are things they can do that will help.