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Learning Center -- Testing Services: Test Taking Tips and Strategies

Strategies for Specific Kinds of Tests

Multiple Choice

Try to supply your own answer before looking at the choices
Deduce--cross out answers you know are incorrect
Look for double negatives
After eliminating what you know is wrong, guess 'C'--on homemade tests 'C' is the most used answer


There are usually more true statements than false
Look for qualifiers and exactors--all, most, sometimes, rarely, never, definitely, absolutely, always
Absolutes are frequently false
Look for slightly changed facts

Open-BookQuestions will often be more specific than a closed-book test

Organize your material before the test
Write formulas and definitions on a sheet in your book for easy reference
Tab pages with hints

Short Answer/Fill In the Blank

Make use of grammatical hints--sometimes only a certain kind of answer will fit in the sentence
Pay attention to keywords and phrases
Use the best phrase you can think of


Start with the easiest and move towards the hardest
Cross off what you have already used
Look for grammatical matches
Look for similar phrasing and note differences

Essay Question

Read entire exam
Use your best handwriting
Read the directions carefully!  Look for keywords in the assignment and make sure you understand and are ready to address all parts
Plan your answer
Get to the point
Stick to the point
Don't forget to include the basics
Make sure you understand what is being asked before you begin
Pay attention to the time
If you begin to run out of time, put your remaining points in bullet form

Take Home

Higher quality answers will be expected than an in-class essay, be sure to dedicate enough time to achieving this higher quality


Concepts build, so if you struggle with step one, you will struggle with step two.  So, don't put off studying or you will quickly fall behind. 
Get a tutor as soon as you begin to have trouble (before the test.)
Take related courses back to back
Avoid condensed courses
Translate into words
Determine the known and unknown qualities
Show your work
Make sure your answers make sense
Proofread (make sure you didn't forget to include a negative sign.)


During Class
Pay attention, take notes, regularly do the homework assignments.  All of these things will make it less likely that you will feel the need to cram the night before the test.  They will also improve your long-term memory and overall grasp of the subject.  Practice good Study Skills in the time leading up to the test.

Sleep is more important than looking over your notes one more time.  A rested brain will function better and will be able to recall more information.

Set an Alarm
Make sure you wake up on time!  A backup alarm is helpful, too, in case you push snooze one too many times or turn off the original alarm.  Also, you may sleep better if you are confident you will not oversleep.

Eat something before the test to help you feel energized and able to focus.  Avoid heavy foods that may make you feel weighed down and sleepy.

Use the Restroom
Go beforehand to avoid distraction during the test.

Peruse (Look Over)
Look over the whole test as soon as you get it to see how many pages and questions there are, and what types.


You want credit for your work, so double check to make sure you put your name and any other required information on your test.

Make sure that you answered every part of every question.  Double check to see if there is a back to any of the pages of the test.

Avoid Careless Mistakes
Review your answers to make sure that you responded to each question to the best of your ability.


Make it Legible
The grader is not going to waste his time trying to figure out what you wrote, so write neatly.

Inspect the Test
Answer questions that you KNOW first, then go back and attempt the ones you're unsure about.  Don't leave any blank.

Do NOT Rush
Take your time to ensure accuracy.  It is okay if others are done before you; slow and steady wins the race.  Read the whole question before attempting to answer it.  Make notes or circle important pieces of information to ensure that you answer all of the parts.

Relax.  Tense muscles and shallow breaths prevent oxygen from flowing to the brain.  You want your brain functioning at its best during a test!


Survey Your Test
Once you get the test back, see what you did and didn't do well.  Take note of what you got wrong.  Ask you professor questions about how you can improve.  Note the professor's testing style for next time.

Learn From Your Mistakes
Don't beat yourself up over a grade that's lower than you would have liked.  Instead, take the opportunity to learn from what you did wrong.  How could you have been better prepared?  What will you do differently to be ready for the next test?