Guide to Test Taking Tips

Taking a test can be extremely stressful, especially if this is your first time taking a college online course or if you haven’t taken a test in a while. It can even be very stressful for those who are normally calm and collected, those who frequently take tests, and those who have taken countless tests before. Many become anxiety-ridden days in advance of the test and have sweaty palms before they even see the questions on the test, even if they know the material well. That’s why it is important to follow proven test prep advice for your online courses.

Much about tests cannot be predicted, but you can increase your chances of success with preparation. We have compiled the best test tips confirmed by education experts to help you succeed in your online education. By following these test taking tips, you will feel more confident and prepared, which puts you in a better position to perform well.

You will find information on how to prepare for the test ahead of time throughout your online course, how to prepare mentally and physically for test day, how to take tests, and how to follow up after a test. We hope the following tips will help you improve your next test score and succeed in your online program.

Tips to Prepare for Your Test

Take proper notes during each class. Take good notes and highlight what is important for testing. Figuring out what to study for the test won’t be so overwhelming if you’ve taken good notes throughout the course. 

Stay organized. Have one designated notebook or binder for all of your materials for each course. This will make it easier to find materials when it comes time to review. By organizing your class materials by lecture or chapter, you will be able to easily review material relevant to each test.

Use mnemonic devices to help yourself memorize information. These associations will help you to remember information you are otherwise likely to forget. This is a good way to remember a series of things and information you believe is likely to be on the test. This technique is best for memorization, but wouldn’t be as useful for essay questions.

Attend review sessions. Highlight or star major points or details that were mentioned many times—these are good clues as what will be on your test! Professors often repeat details that are on the exam. Also, they may specifically tell you something is going to be on the test. If you miss an online review session, ask the professor if there is a transcript of the review session so that you can target your studying according to cues provided by the professor.

Stay up-to-date with your work. Do the reading and assignments on time. This will make it easier for you to review later on and will help you understand complex material that builds on earlier lessons. If you let yourself fall behind, studying for an exam will become a much bigger task than it needs to be, which in turn affects your motivation and confidence.

Set up a study schedule. Set aside a period of time that you devote exclusively to studying. This will help you form the habit of studying, and it will become easier to focus at this time. Make it a time free of distraction. Turn your phone off, and hold yourself to not checking your e-mail or going online until after this period is over. The more you are able to focus, the easier and more enjoyable studying and reviewing will become.

Study with a small group of other students. Finding a group of students among your online peers who are serious about studying is also very useful. They may have information you have missed, such as material the professor stated would be on the test.  You can also hold each other accountable and discuss tricks for memorizing testable material.

Tips for Testing Day

Get a good night’s sleep. Getting enough sleep is directly correlated with academic performance, and being well-rested can make you feel calmer and less anxious. Recall, concentration, and alertness are decreased when you don’t get enough sleep, so staying up to pull an all-nighter studying is not your best option. Avoid this if possible, and arrange to study beforehand. If you have trouble sleeping well before a test, learn how to get better sleep.

Eat before your test. Make sure to eat a meal before the test that includes protein, which gives us energy. Your mind will be more focused and alert during your test. Try to choose something that is healthy and nutritious. Don’t overeat, as overeating often leads to feeling lethargic, which will make it difficult to concentrate during the test.

Do something to relax before hand. Clearing your mind is important. This could mean exercising, getting a massage, meditating, or just sitting still without thinking about anything for ten minutes. Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts showed that meditation causes the brain’s cerebral cortex to thicken—the cerebral cortex is responsible for higher mental functions, such as learning, memory, and concentration.

Write down any important information you are afraid you’ll forget. Writing down pertinent information helps you to remember what you have been studying. This strategy not only helps you to go over key information one last time but also makes you feel more confident, knowing that you have successfully recalled it.

Sign in to your computer early. Whether you take tests at a college’s testing center or from your own computer at home, rushing to make it to your test on time will make you feel even more anxious about the test. By signing in early, you will feel confident, prepared, and relaxed.

Make sure you have everything you need in order to take the test. If you are taking a test at home, make sure your computer has the specific software requirements to take the test. Confirm that you have the right login and password to access your test. Have a bottle of water next to you so you don’t need to get up for anything.

Choose an optimal location if you have the freedom to take the test anywhere. Although online classes offer more convenience than traditional classes, taking tests in an online program presents some unique challenges. One of the major differences is that it is up to you to find a location that is quiet and free of interruptions. When taking a test for an online course, it may be tempting to sit on your bed or couch, but you should choose a place where you feel focused and not too relaxed. Try to pick somewhere like a desk or table, where your mind will be most alert and you can focus well. Prepare to be in this space ahead of time. This may require alerting roommates or family members to the date and time of your test beforehand, or reserving a spot in a local library’s study room.

How to Take Your Test

Quickly preview the test to see how much time you’ll need for each section. This will allow you to know beforehand the sections you need to move more quickly through, and the ones you can afford to spend more time on. Also, note which questions are worth the most points, so you can spend the majority of your time on those.

Answer every question. You lose nothing by answering every question, even if you don’t know the answer. If you leave a question you don’t know blank, you will definitely get the question wrong and won’t receive any points. If you guess or try your best at a fill-in-the-blank style question, you may receive some points, so try your best and give it a shot.

Read through each question carefully. This will ensure that you don’t make any silly mistakes and lose valuable points on questions you know. Review true/false questions carefully to make sure you understand whether a statement is being affirmed or negated.

Do the questions you know first. If you’re stuck on a question, don’t spend a lot of your time racking your brain for the answer. Do the questions you do know first, then go back to the ones you don’t know. Make sure to mark the ones you don’t know, so you can go back to them at the end. For tests that have a challenging time restriction for the number of questions presented, you can achieve a higher score by focusing on the questions you do know.

Highlight key words. If you are taking a test at home or at a testing center where you are allowed to use a pen and paper, writing questions out and highlighting key words will help you stay on track. This technique is particularly useful for lengthy questions, so that you will be able to clearly understand what the question is asking.

Follow-Up after Testing Day

Review your graded exam to ensure that there are not any grading errors. Take time to review questions that were marked as incorrect, even for multiple-choice sections. Ask your professor about questions that had confusing or unclear language, or those that possibly had more than one correct answer.

Learn from your mistakes. If you are provided with a copy of your test, look over any questions you got wrong and then look back at your notes or textbook to see if you can figure out why your answers were wrong. If you cannot, then ask your professor. By understanding the answers to these questions, you will be prepared to learn future material and perform better on future tests.

Save your test for a future cumulative test. Some of the same questions you got wrong may appear again on the midterm or final exam. Not only is it easier to clear up information you are confused about right after the test when it’s fresh in your memory, you will also learn the way your professor writes questions and what material to focus on during your studying. You will see which testing format is your strength and which is your weakness, such as multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blank questions.