Examination Test-Taking Strategies
- 1. Make sure that you understand the testing format. If the exam is being proctored, make sure you listen to all of the instructions. Carefully read all the directions that are given.
- 2. Make sure that you are making your answers in the correct section of the answer key. Look at the answer sheet to determine if the items are arranged vertically or horizontally.
- 3. During the examination, check your watch periodically so that you can keep track of the time remaining.
- 4. When you receive the examination, scan over the entire test and determine the number of questions contained. This will give you an idea of how long you will have for each question.
- 5. Read each question carefully. Try to answer the question before you look at the choices. If you know the answer, compare it to the available choices and choose the most correct choice.
- 6. Find and underline words that harden or soften statements. Words such as "all", "never", "none" and "every" harden a sentence by indicating there are no exceptions. As a rule, alternatives with these words have a lesser chance of being correct. Words such as "sometimes", "may", "generally", and "possibly" soften a statement and leave more room for the alternative to be correct. "And" means that one element of the alternative must be present or true in addition to the other for the alternative to be correct. "Or" means that there is a choice of situations. Only one element of the alternative must be present or true in order to be correct.
- 7. When you go through each of the questions on the examination, answer the easy questions first and leave the more difficult ones until you have answered all the questions that your are sure of. This will prevent you from spending too much time on any one question and will ensure that you will have time to respond to and receive credit for every question that you answer correctly. Whenever you do skip a question, be sure to identify it as skipped in your test booklet, and do not forget to come back to it. For example, you may want to put a small slash on the left of the number on your answer key. Do not put the slash to the right of the number since these exams are graded by computer scanners and this slash could be interpreted as an answer. Sometimes after going through the questions in the examination, another question will bring to mind the answer to a previously skipped question.
- 8. Test-taking surveys have shown repeatedly that the first answer that comes to your mind is usually the correct one. When you change it later, you will often change it to an incorrect answer. If you are looking over a question and you are not sure what the answer is, put a slash next to the alternative that first came to your mind. When you go back over this question and still are not sure which choice is correct, you will remember which one came to your mind first.
- If you finish the examination before your allotted time, go back and review the examination. Do not go back to change answers unless you are absolutely sure that the answer is incorrect. For example, if you meant to be "B" down and instead marked "C", change it. When reviewing, ensure that you have answered the question that corresponds to the number on your answer sheet.
- 9. When marking your answers on the answer sheet, be sure to erase any errors completely. Again, computer scanning is used to determine correct answers on your answer sheet. If you leave any type of mark or shadow in an answer that you erased, the computer may interpret it as having two answers for one question and you will receive no credit.
- 10. If you come to the end of the examination and find that there are 10 minutes left and you have 20 questions to answer, quickly speed-read all the questions and put an alternative down. On the vast majority of promotional examinations, they are graded on the number of correct answers compared to the total number of questions. You are not penalized for guessing. Be sure to fill in an answer for every question.
Anxiety is the strongest deterrent to successful test taking. It interferes with your ability to effectively use your cognitive processes. Anxiety blocks the search and retrieval process, so that knowledge held in your memory bank is inaccessible. We have seen cases where an individual has a thorough knowledge of the material but gets into the examination and freezes or their mind goes blank.
At the start of the examination, the best way to relax yourself is to take 4 to 5 deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly. This will relax your entire body. If during the examination you feel that you are experiencing anxiety, stop and take 30 seconds to repeat these deep-breathing exercises. This will calm you down and allow your mind to think more clearly. A mind under high anxiety is one that is not thinking rationally and you will not make correct choices. Knowing what to expect and being prepared for the examination is the best defense against test anxiety, that worrisome feeling that keeps you from doing your best.
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