Test Preparation Tips

The following are proven strategies that have helped many students improve test scores and prepare more effectively for exams.



Don't Procrastinate. Don't Cram.

It seems like some students thrive on last-minute 'cramming'. But most experts will agree, cramming isn't effective. The biggest problem with cramming, according to UCLA professor of psychiatry Andrew Fuligni, is that cramming causes students to sacrifice sleep time in order to study. While it's not possible to perform well on a test without the required knowledge, sleep is critical for academic success. Sacrificing sleep for an additional 3 or 4 hours of study is often counterproductive.

One of the most important test preparation tips we can give you is to give yourself enough time to study. Don't procrastinate! It's best to begin preparing long before the day of a test. Make it a habit to complete reading assignments on time and frequently review lecture notes. If you're preparing for mid-term or final exams, you'll want to organize your time so you can dedicate more time to those exams that are more important or are going to be more demanding.

Plan Your Study Time

Make time for studying. Setting aside regular time to study is critical for achieving high test performance. We recommend preparing a term calendar, weekly schedule and daily schedule that includes regular study sessions. It's so easy for work and other activities to quickly take precedence over studying, so plan your study time in advance. As you progress through the term it's okay to amend your study schedule to meet your needs, but make sure you plan study sessions in advance – and that you stick with them.

Watch for Clues

Almost every teacher has a methodology for preparing test questions – and they tend to use the same methodology each time they prepare a test. Watch for clues your teacher might provide about possible test questions and formats. It is also advisable to participate at test review sessions and ask questions about unclear concepts. Never be ashamed to ask questions.

Ask Your Teacher for Direction

We'd even suggest asking your teacher directly the best way to study for the test. Many teachers are open to sharing with students suggestions, even secrets, as to how best prepare for their exams. Don't be scared to ask your teacher about what subjects or topics you will be tested on during the exam – even what types of questions to might see.

Arrive Early on Test Day

The more you can glean before a test the better off you'll be. I still remember showing up for class early on the day of my AP History exam in high school. My teacher, Mr. Farr, was answering a question asked to him by another student seeking some clarification on test subject matter. Whether advertently or inadvertently I'll never know but he said to this student, "Don't stress about that. Very little of the test covers that material." Knowing that allowed me to focus my remaining 30 minutes of study on subject matter that was going to be more likely to be on the exam.

It's also common for students struggling with difficult concepts or subject matter to show up early on test day to seek additional clarification or understanding from the teacher or instructor. This is an excellent opportunity to gain additional understanding and test preparation.

Show up to class early on test day, in case the teacher provides any additional tips, instruction or insight.

Review Early. Review With a Group.

Start a final review of all lecture notes, reading assignments, and other class materials that will help you prepare, a couple days before the test. You can do this review by yourself or as part of a study group. Working as part of a study group is an excellent way to review in preparation for an exam. Reviewing in preparation for a test as part of study group will allow you to improve your notes, fill in any gaps in your understanding, more fully explore complex concepts, maximize your time, cover more material, gain additional knowledge about what might be on the test, and provide you with a support system.

Prepare an Outline

Prepare an outline of the main topics and concepts that will be covered during an exam, then use this sheet to study. This will help you memorize key facts and other information you will be tested on.

Use Visual Aids

Visual aids, including chart, diagrams and graphs are great study helps – especially if you're a visual learner. Organizing information into diagrams and charts helps to condense and simply information and improves recall at test time.

Stay Healthy

Getting plenty of rest and exercising regularly will enhance your ability to perform well on a test. Eat a nutritious meal prior to taking a test to be alert and focused. Stay away from junk food. Eating junk food or sugar prior to a test will cause your energy levels to deplete quickly and can impact your ability to focus.

Get Plenty of Sleep

It is unwise to stay up all night studying prior to test day. Get plenty of sleep the night before a test. Although spending extra time preparing seems like it will improve your score, you never want to show up to a test tired. Studies show that student who spend more time upfront studying and less time cramming the night before typically perform better on tests.

Stay Hydrated and Use the Bathroom

Be sure to use the bathroom before the test begins. If you must visit the restroom during the test, it can waste time, and in many cases, students are not permitted to leave a room once a test begins. It can also be extremely uncomfortable and distract your concentration.However, it's also important that you stay hydrated. If possible, bring a bottle of water with you to the exam.

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