Tests are stressful. Sometimes your brain blanks, sometimes you don’t study enough – whatever the case, most of us can agree that tests aren’t super fun. Remember, taking a test is about showing your knowledge, not stressing you out. So here’s a guide to make the experience as easy as possible.
1. Don’t Cram!
Okay, obviously right? As tempting as it is, studies have shown that studying over time is just way better for your brain. It’s better to look at something once for just a bit, put it away then look at it again another day than trying to get your brain to understand it all at once. Doing little bursts of studying through the weeks will prime your brain for your studies. Make it fun with flashcards, or create tests of your own to really show your understanding. Read more about effective study habits here.
2. Sleep Properly the Night Before!
Pulling an all-nighter to cram may seem like the best option, but trust us it’s not. Your brain will lose most of the information you’re cramming without proper sleep. Sleep consolidates memory, so without it you might not be able to remember those random facts you need. Make sure you have a good sleep the night before a test. To aid your sleep, make sure you don’t eat too late or overeat, read a book, listen to music to fall asleep – don’t stress yourself out.
3. Bring a Highlighter, Pencil, Eraser and Pen
Make sure you’re fully stocked in your pencil case. You don’t want last minute stress from forgetting your pencil in a scantron test. A highlighter comes in handy when you’re reading through questions or instructions. Pens are way easier to read and some instructors won’t accept pencil. And of course, an eraser is necessary for any last minute changes.
4. Do a Mind Dump
Right when the test begins, write down everything you know (within reason). Those formulas that are hard to remember, the random fact you just learned – write it all down. When you’re doubting yourself later, you can come back to your mind dump and verify your thoughts.
5. Read the Instructions
One of my old teachers always shared an anecdote about a test he once made. It was a full length test, but the instructions stated “don’t fill out this test, just submit it like this”. It was a test in how carefully you read the instructions. Now, this most likely won’t happen to you, but instructions are important!
6. Glance Through the Test
Now that you’ve read through the instructions, glance through the test. Take note of the questions you know the answers to, and the ones you don’t. This will give your brain more time to think about the questions you don’t know.
7. Do the Easy Ones First
Don’t speed through it, but doing all the ones you are certain you know is a great way to get momentum and confidence. Get all the easy ones out of the way to give yourself time to focus on the harder ones.
8. Make Sure You Read and Understand the Question
This is where the highlighter comes in handy. Some questions trip you up – a one word change from “which of the following is true” to “which of the following is not true” will change an answer completely. Use your highlighter to check on those small things when reading through. And if you don’t understand the question, don’t be afraid to ask!
9. Write Down Your Thought Process
Even if it’s a test where you don’t have to show your work – show your work. Make sure if it’s a multiple choice test that you circle your answer on the test booklet as well as filling in the bubble on the scantron. Cross out any answers that are completely incorrect, write down your thoughts on the answers. If you show your work and reasoning, but somehow make a mistake filling out the sheet, your teacher will have an easier time making a call on what to do. Also, it’ll help you feel confident in your answer.
10. Double Check – But Don’t Overthink it
Double check that you’ve answered things to the best of your ability and that you’ve read questions correctly. However, don’t change your answers without good reason. Doubt can make you forget your initial reasoning and make you change your answer for no reason. Your first instinct tends to be correct, as long as you’ve read the question and answer correctly.