Veteran teacher and our expert Jim Sarris has written 155 best test-taking tips taken from his book 155 Proven Test-Taking Tips.
This article is an excerpt of 19 of the best test-taking tips for higher grades from Mr. Sarris’ book, reprinted with permission.
We have added some additional information that you will find helpful for better grades.
19 Best Test Taking Tips For Higher Grades
1. Understand What You’re Learning
Make sure you understand the information as you’re learning it.
That way, you won’t have to “re-learn” it or “cram” later on.
How can you be sure you understand the information is one of the best test-taking tips you’ll even learn.
You will know because of your learning styles.
You will either see the information as if you have a movie in your mind, you will hear the information in your mind, or you will feel it as if you touched it or acted it out.
If you move on after reading a chapter but don’t get what you read about – it doesn’t make sense – then you haven’t learned.
Memorizing is an unreliable study method, and even though that might be your compromise when you can’t understand a topic, subject, or concept, it’s not learning.
You’ll be more prone to forget and more likely to fumble questions that test your application.
So, figure out your learning style, the appropriate study strategies, and learn how to learn, to make sure you understand the information.
2. Study in Chunks
Read and study information in meaningful chunks (by chapters or units) so that you’ll be able to file and retrieve information easily.
Chunking uses the brain’s tendency to notice and recall patterns and sequences, as well as gives it digestible bits of information instead of overwhelming it.
By breaking information down into smaller fragments, you give your brain more time to absorb and remember it.
This creates a stronger foundation for the next chunk of information.
3. Identify Key Concepts
At the end of each chapter or unit, identify the most important information.
Make up flashcards or picture-perfect summaries that you can easily carry and use for study regularly.
If you can look at these condensed key points and recall all the information you need to, you can be confident that you have learned effectively.
Great test takers get better grades when using this as one of the best test-taking tips.
4. Make Recordings
If you’re an auditory learner, make a recording of your important notes so you can review them on the run.
There’s a lot of available time in the day you can use this way – when you’re on the way to and from school, waiting for the bus, etc.
5. Make a Study Schedule
Estimate how long you’ll need to study all the material.
Then, set up a schedule and stick to it.
Be realistic at all times.
Give yourself enough time to go through things without rushing.
A schedule gives you a bird’s eye view of everything you need to do and allows you to plan ahead.
This way, you can avoid getting overwhelmed and panicky at the last minute – which does not help learning.
6. Look at Older Tests
Look at past tests to determine how you can improve test results.
What did you get wrong, and why?
Would you be able to get the score now, after you’ve learned that specific topic or concept better?
This is again one of the best test-taking tips for higher grades.
7. Look at the Big Picture
Ask the teacher about the test.
Find out what information your teacher will focus on testing, a develop a study strategy and the kinds of questions will show up.
Then go over your text and notes to that works for you and add it to your tool kit of best test-taking tips.
Although you might think you have to study an entire textbook’s worth of notes to do well, studying smart often gets you farther than studying hard.
8. Pay Attention to the Study Guides Teachers Hand Out
Teachers tend to put information in these guides that are clues, and you can use them as your clues for the best test-taking tips and material that will be on the test.
9. Ask the Teacher to Clarify What Will Be (and Not Be) on the Test
It’s frustrating to find out, after spending hours committing a chapter to memory, that it wasn’t going to be on the test at all.
Avoid the duplication of effort by being clear on the get-go what the test is going to be on.
10. Pay Attention to the Clues the Teacher Gives Out
Does he put things on the board, say things more than once, openly say, “This will be on the test?”
Once again, these are obvious clues you can use for the best test-taking tips you need for higher grades.
Paying attention in class can give you an upper hand the next time you have a test because teachers will tend to emphasize concepts they want you to remember.
11. Generate A List of Possible Questions You Would Ask if You Were the Teacher
Look at any quizzes you’ve done previously, practice tests, and past papers for that class.
Think about the types of questions your teacher asked in class.
Pool your ideas with your classmates in a study group so that you can cover your bases.
12. Before a Test, Break Study Sessions into Manageable Time Units
You’ll remember more if you study for short periods of time (45 minutes to 1 hour) and over a more extended period of time (1-2 weeks) than if you cram all your study into a “binge” session.
Some of the best test-taking tips make use of primacy and recency.
This means that you want to shorten your study sessions because you will remember what you studied first and studied last the night before the test.
A shorter gap in between the beginning and end means there’s less that you will forget.
13. Study the Most Difficult Material When You are Most Alert
It’s tempting to leave the hardest thing for last, but doing so also means you’re leaving the most challenging material for when you’re mentally tired out.
Tackle the hardest thing first, and the rest of your study session will breeze by in comparison once you have it out of the way!
14. Practice Answering Essay Questions Before the Test
Ask yourself how you would answer the questions at all levels.
For example: How would you describe, compare/contrast, predict, classify, apply, evaluate, prioritize, etc.?
Many times, students know the material but not how to answer the question, or what the question is specifically asking.
Paying attention to what the teacher is looking for with a particular style of question helps you maximize your scores.
15. Use Mnemonic Techniques
Use mnemonic devices and visualization strategies to memorize lists, definitions, and other specific kinds of information.
Images are easier to recall for your brain than lines of text.
Visualization comes naturally to visual learners, but auditory and kinesthetic learners can develop this skill too!
16. Form Study Groups
If you’re old enough, form a study group with other students in your class to discuss and quiz each other on important material.
This will add other perspectives and help you with material you may have overlooked.
17. Maintain Healthy Living Habits
Get a good night’s sleep before the test.
If you want to put your best test-taking tips into practice, you need rest and eat protein on the day of the test for better grades.
What you eat and how well you sleep both contribute to your learning success in scientifically-proven ways.
For example, you’re more likely to perform poorly on a test and forget what you learned if you didn’t sleep the night before.
Similarly, if you consumed a lot of sugar right before your exam, you might have a temporary sugar-rush, but later feel sluggish and unable to concentrate.
18. Finish Your Studying the Day Before the Test
Don’t leave anything for the day of the test – you will be more prone to forget, and more likely to make yourself panic.
19. Studying While You’re Tired is a Waste of Time!
Don’t do it.
Break up your studying into manageable chunks.
Get more done in less time.
These 19 test-taking tips for higher grades might seem simple, but they make a world of difference to how well you perform in school.
Not only are they all strategies I’ve seen work perfectly through my career, but they’re also scientifically proven as brain-based learning hacks!
So what are you waiting for?
Incorporate these tips into your study routine, and do get back to me with the results!
Jim Sarris is a veteran teacher currently working on additional memory strategies and how to help people practice foreign languages. He is the creator of Memory Skills Made Easy and an expert on learning styles, memory and best test taking tips.
[ Updated – October 27, 2020 ]