ststkThe big history exam is coming up…to say nothing of quizzes in English, math, and science. With all that studying to do, who needs to use valuable time learning how to take tests?

You do. It’s true that you, like many students, have been taking tests ever since you started at a good school. Yet, despite all this experience, many students may not be all that test-wise. They may not realize that test-taking is a learned skill, not one you are born with.

Test-taking is also a skill that will be necessary long after you receive your high school diploma. If you go on to college, you will be essayed, multiple-choiced, and final-exammed for years to come. Those of you choosing a non-college career path will still end up taking tests. Armed service recruits take placement exams. Tradespeople must pass exams for licensing. On-the-job promotions often come as a result of work-related tests.

Confidence Helps

One thing that will help your performance in any of these tests is confidence. Karl Kirkland and James Hollandsworth, psychologists at the University of Southern Mississippi, taught students several different ways of preparing for tests to see which was the most effective. They found that students who combined test-taking strategies with self-reassurance performed best on exams. These students gained calm and confidence by coaching themselves with thoughts like “I have plenty of time – read the questions carefully” or when they become distracted, they think, “I will think about that later, now, back to the test.”

Of course, all the confidence in the world won’t help if you haven’t opened your biology book all semester. Luckily many experts have spent their study time finding methods that will help you prepare for that biology final – and all the other tests along the way.

Studying Doesn’t Hurt

* Start your studying long before your exams. The best review begins at the time of your second assignment and continues through the semester. It includes well-organized notes, an outlined textbook, and all previous test questions. * Identify and learn the most important information, especially material in boldface type, chapter questions, and chapter summaries. * Test yourself by making up and answering questions based on the material. Don’t cheat and just ask easy questions; you can be sure your teacher won’t. * Pay special attention to your teacher the week before your exam because most instructors will earmark important things to study. If you notice your teacher saying. “In this chapter we have seen three very important instances of symbolism,” you’d better know all three of those examples on test day. * Try to avoid all-nighters at all costs. First, the mind doesn’t appreciate or respond well to this kind of forcefeeding. And, the morning after, you often feel so tires and dazed that you can’t think clearly about what you’ve learned or how to organize it into a good answer. * Don’t use drugs, which affect short-term memory. This applies to the illegal ones, of course, but also to over-the-counter drugs that claim to promote alertness.

“Be Prepared”

Knowing the material is the first all-important step to a good test grade, but the process doesn’t end there. You may know every fact required but still lose valuable points to misread questions or rushed, sloppy answer. Taking an exam requires almost as much care as good preparation. Here are a dozen ideas that, if followed, will help you score big on your next test: 1. Just like the Boy Scouts, “Be Prepared” with plenty of supplies. You don’t want to waste any of your time or composure looking for a pencil or borrowing paper. 2. Read through the entire test, paying particular attention to all instructions. Make sure you understand what is required before you ploy into answering the first questions. This initial read-through will let you gauge what lies ahead, tell you the type of answer expected, the number of points assigned to each question, etc. It also lets your unconscious start searching for a good answer to Question #5 while you are still formally working on your first essay. 3. Budget your time according to the point value of each question. If, for example, one essay is worth 50 percent of a test, plan to spend about half your work time on this question. Make a note of how much time to allot to each section and try to stick to the schedule.

Write Clearly

4. As silly as it may seem, write clearly. Teachers can’t give credit to answer they cannot decipher. 5. Generally, answer the easier questions first. This method guarantees you will get credit for what you know. Writing down several correct answer may also build the necessary confidence to help you tackle the more difficult questions. 6. Look for the key and qualifying words in every question. Ask yourself what the teacher is looking for in your answer: facts, analysis, the application of basic principles. Instructions such as compare and contrast, explain and evaluate might seem similar, but they require quite different responses. 7. For essay questions, a short outline can help you organize your answer into a logical presentation filled with important details.

Don’t Give Up

8. If you run out of time before getting to that last essay, don’t give up. Salvage some points by writing an outline with major headings, subheadings, and supporting facts. 9. For multiple-choice questions, try to come up with your own answer before checking the options your teacher has provided. Even if you see “your” answer, go through the others to make sure they aren’t better than your own. Also, don’t be influenced by the patterns of letters created by your response. Just because the answers have been “a,b, c,a,b,c” so far, only superstition suggests the next answer should be “a” again. 10. Take your teachers into account while taking their test. Use the type of style and examples each prefers. 11. Leave space between essay questions in case you want to go back and add something. 12. Leave enough time to review your paper carefully for careless mistakes. Take this opportunity to supplement essay questions with new thoughts and ideas. 13. Never let a poor performance lower your self-esteem. Remember that exams test how much you know about a specific subject, not your worth as a human being. Only you can grade yourself in that!

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