Exam-Taking Tips

“They all laughed when I said I was going to nail the final exam….”

There are different kinds of tests. There are tests with essay questions or multiple choice questions, open book or close book, online or in-class.

Getting ready to crush itNot everyone can excel at every type of test. You don’t get to pick and choose which type to take. You just have to do as well as you can at each one.

We’ve got some ideas to help you out.

Know the Math
You should start by understanding the basic mathematical and logical possibilities of multiple choice exam questions.

You don’t have to be MacGyver to have a basic understanding of the probabilities of choice on a simple exam.

For example, if the answer on a multiple choice question is a number, the correct answer is usually not the highest or lowest number. It’s usually somewhere in the middle.

Also, if there are four answers, with three answers being somewhat close together, and the fourth answer is much more of an outlier, the outlier is typically not the correct answer.

These are just general guidelines and they are obviously wrong some of the time, but they might help you to guess on a question you don’t know the answer to.

Can you throw out one of the answers?

Narrowing the field of answers from four down to three greatly helps your chances of selecting the right answer. And going from three to two is another dramatically helpful step.

But this math changes if the format of your exam takes away points for wrong answers.

If you are taking one of the standardized entrance exams, such as the SAT or GMAT, you get points for correctly answering a question, no points if you don’t answer the question at all, and minus points if you answer a question incorrectly.

So in these exams, if you have absolutely no clue which of the four answers are correct, you should just skip the question. Don’t answer it.

Only answer a question if you can confidently eliminate one or more of the possible answers.

If you can discard one answer, but you still have no idea about which of the other are correct — then just skip it. But if you can discard one and you have a pretty good idea about which of the remaining answers is correct — then answer it.

If you can confidently throw out two of the possible four answers, but you don’t know which of the two remaining answers is the right one, we recommend attempting a guess because your instincts should allow you to pick the winning answer more than 50% of the time.

Eliminating two answers brings the question down to a 50-50 choice, same as a true or false question, and your brain is strong enough to score over 50% on those types of questions.

Just Apply Logic
If you don’t have any idea about the answer to a question, at least take the time to look over the answers and think about each one.

Can you narrow down the choices? Even if you don’t know anything about the question topic, do any of the answers sound logical?

Teachers Reuse Test Questions
So do you think that teachers have so much free time that they construct brand new tests every semester/year? Nobody has free time. Why would teachers put in unnecessary hours writing new exam questions every year when they wrote perfectly fine questions last year? They don’t have the time or energy to do it.

Now, when a teacher is young and eager, they will design and tweak exams, but once they have what they think is a good, solid test, why would they put in the effort to change it?

What are we getting at here?
When you are getting ready for an exam, try to find someone who has taken it before. Find out from them what was on the exam. Sure, they won’t remember too much, but every bit of intell you can bring in helps.

This also can applied to projects. Many teachers will assign the same project every year. Find out from previous students what main points the teacher was looking for with those projects.

No Distractions on Test Day
On days of big tests, you need to keep your mind free and focused on the exam. Once the exam is over, you can do what you want.

You can’t afford distractions just before the exam or during the exam.

Just before the exam, do not call your boyfriend or girlfriend. Don’t do anything distracting.

Do not browse the Web or go on any website. And if you do, do not read any visitor comments about anything. If you are reading about something you care about and some troll pisses you off — it could distract you.

Just don’t do it before the exam. Be strong. Maintain your focus.

Once you get to the exam room, pick a good spot if you can. If you sit up front, you won’t be distracted by the activity of all the other students.

Don’t sit near anyone you find really attractive.

Join or Start a Study Group

Okay, we know how this sounds. It sounds horrible.

Study group?

The thing is – they can work.

Even if you are the smart one in the group and you end up doing all of the work, you will better learn the material and be better prepared just by discussing it with others.

Study groups are usually very inefficient. There is always a lot of wasted time before they actually begin and also after they end, and, to be fair, quite a bit of time in the middle is just wasted time too, with members talking about the teacher or about other members of the class.

But these group sessions can help too. Just by engaging in a discussion, you increase the possibility of a better score because you are putting in some extra time.

Sleep and Don’t Screw Up Your Schedule
Make sure you sleep before every exam. Don’t ever stay up all night cramming for a test.

Even if you only get two or three hours of sleep, sleeping just a little helps you perform on a test better than not sleeping and spending that last couple of hours trying to memorize something.

Routine is important, both in athletics as well as academic trials. Athletes always try to stay on a schedule and a personal routine when they want to perform their best.

Don’t attempt to radically change your routine by staying up all night. Those last couple of hours of note cramming on no sleep aren’t going to help you that much.

Be Ready to Rock
Arrive prepared. Have your pencils, pens, calculators, paper, textbooks, or whatever else you need.

Don’t arrive hungry or too full or having to pee.

Give yourself the best chance you can.

Good luck — we’re pulling for ya.