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College Success Skills: Test Taking

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Basic Study Tips

Here are some very basic study tips that will help you get more done in less time and with greater efficiency:

  • Pay attention in class and take down notes.
  • Set a schedule to study, such as an hour everyday. Studying a little everyday helps you avoid having to cram on the eve of an exam.
  • Get a good night's sleep. A sleep deprived brain does not function efficiently.
  • Eat breakfast, even if it is only a bite on the run, but avoid caffeine. You'll probably be jittery enough as it is.
  • Choose a good time and location to study instead of letting people or situations distract you.
  • If there is any information you are unclear about, ask your instructor well in advance.
  • Get to class early with the materials you will need, such as pens, pencils, textbook and/or calculator if allowed, a bottle of water.
  • Read the test instructions carefully.
  • Begin with the easier questions.
  • Keep track of the time and check your work.
  • Don't let the stress of taking a test get to you. When you're overstressed, your brain stops functioning as it should.
  • Remember to breathe. Many times when you focus on something important, you will hold your breath. This deprives the brain of oxygen that is needed to help it function properly and can lead you to not think clearly.

Drafting a Study Plan

Key steps to create an effective study plan to help prepare for a test:

Start Early Prior to the Test

  • Start preparing for tests/exams the first day of class by using the syllabus to keep track of all test dates in your calendar or planner.
  • Plan study periods ahead of time to review lecture notes and textbook chapters rather than just around exam time. Reviewing for several short periods rather than one long period will help you retain information better.
  • Seek tutoring in a timely fashion for those areas you find difficult and/or challenging or review with a study group.

Taking the Test

  • Be sure to read the test directions carefully.
  • Work on the parts you find the easiest or have the greatest point values first. Remember to pace yourself to allow time for the more difficult parts.
  • Try to save time at the end of the exam to review your answers and make sure questions or parts of answers weren't left out.

Following the Test

  • Look over the test and make sure that you understand your mistakes.
  • If you don't understand why a certain answer was incorrect, ask for assistance from your instructor, classmates, or look it up.
  • If you aren't satisfied with your grade, go to your instructor and see if there's a make-up exam or any extra credit you can do.

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