You may have already taken many tests and exams for your courses. Maybe you are great at test-taking or maybe you need some help. The purpose of this post is to share some tips that any student can use before, during and after taking a test. While it's important to develop your own test-taking approach listed below are general tips to improve your performance on exams.

Before the test

Make a Game Plan

Have a strategy before you write your name on the exam. What are you going to do first? What types of questions will you be asked (multiple-choice, short answer, essay questions)? Will all of the questions be weighted equally or are some types of questions worth more than others? Will you skim all of the questions and work on the ones that are worth more points? Will you start working on the problems that are easiest/freshest in your mind?

While being prepared is a big component of test-taking, using your time efficiently during the test is vital. With any strategy you decide on, don't be afraid to skip questions if you are unsure. Do this to save time but remember to jot down your best guess before moving on. At the same time, monitor how many questions you are skipping per page. Skipping too many questions might not save you time if you need to constantly re-read and search for questions you have passed over.

Memory Dump

Have you ever waited outside the classroom ten minutes before an exam and furiously looked over you notes? Many students try to cram last minute details in a nervous frenzy before taking a test. But when they enter the room, they don't do anything with the information they just crammed.

So what is memory dump? As soon as you receive your exam and are allowed to write, flip to the back or a blank page and write down everything you just put into your brain. Once you have everything down, start taking your test. If you see a question that references anything from your memory dump, you can just flip to the back and find the correct information (this can be particularly helpful with tough to remember equations).

During the Test


Check your answers to see if they are correct. Cover the answer you chose and re-read the question. Make sure your selection has not changed from when you first answered the question.

Then, check your answers to see if your responses match what you have bubbled in on the scantron. While it feels nice to leave a testing session early, reviewing can save you from losing points for silly errors and mistakes. Spending an extra twenty minutes on reviewing could save you some points.

Watch Out For Qualifiers

Avoid answer choices that use absolute qualifiers: always, never, all, none, must. These words leave no room for exception and are likely to be incorrect. For example: Vegetables are always green.

Instead, look for more inclusive language: sometimes, usually, many, most, often. If you see inclusive terms in an answer choice, the selection is more likely to be correct. For example: Many vegetables are green.

It sounds silly to boil down an answer choice to a specific word, but looking at qualifiers can be especially helpful if you need to make a smart guess.

After the Test


Always think about how you tested/prepared for the test. Did one strategy work better than another? Did you spend enough time studying? Did you use the time effectively? What changes can you make to your study habits to improve on future exams?

Also, look over your exam for mistakes. Meet with a professor or TA to discuss the problems you missed or contact an academic coach for help with a test analysis. Find out if your errors were a result of carelessness or if you simply lacked understanding in the concept. Then, make a plan for addressing these errors in your next exam. You’ll feel more prepared and less anxious before the next exam.