Listen, I’m a pretty good test taker. Source? Just trust me. The most cynical narcissists among us might consider the notion of being a bad test taker kind of ridiculous. They’d say “Oh, you say you know the material, but when it comes time to demonstrate your knowledge you struggle? How Interesting.” You can imagine their smugness.
In reality, there are a number of reasons why exams aren’t the best indicators of aptitude. Here are a few tips to help you become a better test taker, regardless of your current skill level.
Identify Learning Disabilities
This could be the most difficult yet essential thing you can do if it does indeed apply to you. If you have, say, dyslexia or ADHD but just don’t know it yet, exams are likely a cause of great frustration for you. Why does it just seem so much harder than it should be? If you know what you’re dealing with, you can much more easily understand your own brain and can work on your test taking abilities in ways that are more beneficial to your specific mind.
Remind Yourself To Stay Positive
This can be quite difficult, as anxiety and intrusive thoughts tend to creep up at the most inconvenient times, and there’s no simple way to simply get rid of them. An amount of anxiety can be a good thing, but having a panic attack during an exam certainly won’t help your score. If you can actively remind yourself to stay positive and be confident, you’ll hopefully be able to quell these negative thought patterns. You have to continuously try to believe in yourself.
Block Out Distractions
Distractions will vary greatly depending on the type and location of the exam. For a traditional pen and paper, in-class test, typical attention-stealers include nearby friends, the perpetual ticking of the clock, or even an open window. Wow, look at all that wonderful freedom outside. Wouldn’t you love to be anywhere else? If the exam in question is like this, there isn’t much you can do other than to actively remind yourself to stay focused, which is easier said than done.
However, as online learning becomes more and more prevalent, taking exams online from the comfort of your own room is a much more common occurrence. This is where the real danger lies, as your room is likely filled to the brim with your favorite things. Put your phone on silent and keep it at a safe distance (unless it will help you on the exam), make sure there’s nothing on the TV, and do not listen to music. You can’t give your mind any more reasons to wander than it already has. You can do it. I believe in you.
Don’t you just love multiple-choice questions? If the exam in question is multiple choice or matching, you don’t necessarily need to have every fact memorized. You can figure out things as you go and utilize the process of elimination. Plus, the answer is often given away in the question itself if you read carefully. If you’re tactful and logical in your approach, you very well might do even better than you had any right to.
Sleep, You Idiot!
Why have we as a society romanced pulling all-nighters so much? That’s the best way to perform well on an exam, right? What could possibly go wrong by studying yourself into the next day?
If the necessity for a good night’s sleep seems obvious, it’s because it is, but far too many people choose to ignore it. Cramming all that information into your brain the night before can only do you so much good if your brain isn’t even working when it comes time to prove your knowledge.
Healthy Long-Term Study Habits
Cramming in general usually just doesn’t get it done, whether you get enough sleep or not. It takes tremendous repetition in order for our brains to commit information to long-term memory, so spreading out your studying as much as possible is the best way to actually retain the information, instead of just dumping it all out on the test, only for it to never return again.
Allow For Some Studying Immediately Beforehand
This tip may seem contradictory to the previous one, but it’s not. While committing info to long-term memory is the best result, the reality is that’s not always going to work. If at all possible, if you can set aside some time just before the test to review the information, you’ll have your short-term memory working for you as well. We’re not talking about the night before, either. I do mean immediately before the exam. Try to carve out that short-term refresher session into your schedule whenever possible.
Stay Hydrated (But Not Too Hydrated)
Dehydration can cause all sorts of problems to your brain, but you know what else can hinder your test taking abilities? A full bladder. Be careful to try to find the right balance, and relieve yourself before the test if possible. If every tick of the clock makes you feel like you’re being waterboarded, you’re going to have a bad time. Try not to stress about it, but keep your urinary system in the back of your mind.
Manage Your Time
When educators are writing tests, sometimes it seems like they truly don’t even want you to finish. Being aware of the time is critical. Don’t spend too long on any one question. The last thing you want is to have blown most of your time on only a small fraction of the exam. Be chronologically aware, but don’t fixate on time too much. Do not let yourself get flustered when you see other students start to finish. It’s not a race, Sonic.
Practice, Especially When It Comes To Math
Is anyone in the world just indifferent to math? It seems like you either hate math or become a mathematician. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. For those who might struggle in their math classes, it’s important to practice more than just the assigned problems. Math teachers tend to assign half of the questions, but all of the questions are valuable. The more you practice, the more you’ll understand the process of doing mathematics.
One of the worst parts of taking those extremely long standardized tests in high school is getting a sore booty. We’re not meant to sit in those awful chairs for very long. If your body doesn’t feel right, your mind won’t, either. Take every step possible to ensure maximum comfort in any test taking environment. If you’re at home you can wrap yourself in a Snuggie and sip hot cocoa, if that’s what makes you feel all cozy. Just don’t get too cozy and fall asleep.
Treat Yo Self
Keeping a positive outlook is so much easier if you have a reward waiting for you at the end. After a long, difficult exam, it’s important to pamper yourself, even just a little bit. What does it mean to you to treat yo self? Do you reach for a bowl of ice cream? Do you get funky with your partner? Do you light stuff on fire? While I don’t necessarily condone the last one, I get it. If you have some light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel itself becomes more bearable.