Test Preparation TipsThe 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 TimeMake 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 CluesAlmost 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 DirectionWe'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 DayThe 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.