Test Taking Strategies and Suggestions
These suggestions and strategies are courtesy of Kimberly Cox-Gray, an Instructor from the Chicago Teachers Union's Quest Center, and facilitator for our Basic Skills Workshops.
Six Types of Test-Taking Errors
- Misread direction errors - these occur when you skip directions or misunderstand directions but answer the question or do the problem anyway. To avoid this, read all directions carefully.
- Careless errors - mistakes made which can be caught automatically upon reviewing the test. Watch for simple mistakes as you review your test.
- Concept errors - mistakes made when you do not understand the properties or principles required to work the problem. To avoid this, you must review your textbooks, reference books, and notes before you retake the test.
- Application errors - mistakes you make when you know the concept but cannot apply it to the problem. You should learn to predict the type of application problems that will be on the test.
- Test-taking errors - mistakes made because of specific ways of taking a test:
- Missing more questions in the 1st-third, 2nd-third, or last-third of a test. If you know you usually miss questions in one of these parts of a test, spend extra time reviewing your answers in that part.
- Not completing a problem to its last step. Spend time making sure you followed all of the necessary steps of a problem before moving on.
- Changing test answers from correct to incorrect. If you're sure that you need to change an answer, do so. If you KNOW you usually change an answer incorrectly, DON'T
- Getting stuck on one problem and spending too much time. Set a time limit for each problem. If you can't answer it in that time, skip it and move on.
- Rushing through the easiest parts of the test and making careless errors. Make sure you review every part of the test, even the parts you're very confident with.
- Mis-copying an answer from your scratch work to the answer sheet. Always compare your scratch work to make sure the same answer has been chosen.
- Leaving answers blank. If its blank, there's a 100% chance it'll be wrong. If you at least make an educated guess, you have a 1 in 4 chance of getting it right.
- Study errors - occur when you study the wrong type of material or do not spend enough time studying pertinent material.
Reading & Language Arts Tips
- Read all directions through twice. Directions for language arts items often tell you to look for answer choices that have mistakes or errors. Other times, you are asked to look for the answer with no mistakes. It is important to know exactly what to look for.
- When asked to answer questions about a reading passage, read the questions first. That way, you'll know what to look for as you read the passage. When you finish the passage, go on to answer the questions.
- In reading questions, look for key words such as who, what, where, when, why, and how that tell you what to specifically look for in the passage. This is especially important when answering questions about maps, charts, and graphs or reference sources, such as dictionary entries, indexes, and tables of contents.
- Practice scanning a reading passage to quickly find key words that will help you answer questions about details. When answering questions about a reading passage, look back at the passage to locate the answer. Don't just rely on your memory.
- When answering questions about maps, charts, graphs, or reference sources, such as dictionary entries, always look back at the diagram or sample reference to answer the questions. Don't just rely on your memory.
- In a reading passage, when you come to a word you don't know, look for context clues: other words in the sentence or paragraph that help to define or explain the unknown word.
- For fill-in sentences, always read the entire sentence before you choose an answer. Use context clues to help you find the answer.
- When asked to choose a word to complete a sentence, try out all the answer choices in the sentence. Don't rush to fill in the blank; you might get tricked by words that are similar but have different meanings.
- Questions dealing with capitalization and punctuation can be tricky. The answer choices often look very much alike.
Read all the answer choices, and choose your answer carefully.
- When looking for word meanings, read all the answer choices carefully. Don't be fooled by words that only look or sound like the correct answer.
- When asked to identify order of events, look for key words that signal time sequence, for example: first, next, then, after, finally, and at last.
- Watch out for negative words in directions, such as NOT or OPPOSITE. These words tell you exactly which answer to look for. Such words often appear in bold or italic type, or in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
Reducing Test Anxiety
- Put your feet flat on the floor.
- With your hands, grasp under the chair
- Push down with your feet and pull up on the chair at the same time
- Relax for five to ten seconds
- Repeat two or three times
- Relax all the muscles except the ones that are actually used for the test
Palming method of visualization
- Close your eyes and cover them using the center of the palms of your hands.
- Prevent your hands from touching your eyes by resting the lower parts of your palms on your cheekbones and placing your fingers on your forehead. The eyeballs must not be touched in any way.
- Think of some real or imaginary relaxing scene. Mentally visualize this scene. Picture this scene as if you were actually there, looking through your own eyes.
- Visualize this relaxing scene for one or two minutes. Practice visualizing this scene several days before taking the test and the effectiveness of this relaxation procedure will improve.