Taking tests isn’t hard if you understand the test taking success strategies you need to succeed.

Before you stop reading because you’re one of those self-professed Bad Test-Takers and all tests are hard, let me tell you that I’m one of you. And I say that with the right test taking success strategies, test taking can be just as easy as all of your Good Test-Taker friends have always said they are. All you’re missing is the proper equipment.

Here’s your toolbox of test taking success strategies!

Tool #1: Understand the Test

The first tool in your proverbial toolbox is to know what you’re getting into. Before you start any kind of test, whether it’s a unit exam, essay, or standardized test like the ACT, do your research. Don’t walk into a test without knowing what kinds of questions are going to be on it and what you’re going to be required to know.

Ask your teacher what kinds of questions to expect. Multiple choice, true/false, and matching are standard for most tests, but don’t be taken by surprise if your teacher writes something different. Ask other students who may have taken the class about their experience. Don’t ask them for answers, of course, but it’s perfectly o.k. to ask them about how they felt about the test.

Tool #2: Knowing the material is one of the best test taking success strategies

This might seem like a given, but it’s going to be hard to get the right answers if you don’t know the test material. You’ll only get what you give in a situation like this—and that’s true for most things in life.

Put forth the effort and you will see results. Spend the few nights before a big test studying—resist the urge to watch your favorite TV show (that’s what DVR is for) or go out with your friends; there will be time for that after the test is over.

On the night before the test, however, put away the books. Cramming will only cause you stress and make your brain tired. Go for a run or go to bed early instead. One of the best test taking success strategies is exercise. Exercise will relax you, and a rested brain will function much better than one that’s been up half the night cramming.

test taking success strategies

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  Tool #3: Write Questions

This is a helpful trick I learned in my undergraduate program. Once you know what will be on the test, start writing your own test questions as you study. Write multiple choice and short answer questions, and keep a running list of vocabulary words you might need to know. Writing your own questions will get you deeper into the material than when you just read the textbooks and take notes. Writing both questions and answers requires a greater understanding of what you’re reading, and that understanding will show in your test results.

Tool #4: The Peppermint Trick one of the little-known test taking success strategies

I’ve been told that chewing peppermint gum while you study and then again when you test will allow your taste memory to recall what you’ve studied. I don’t know about the accuracy of this claim, but studies do support the idea that peppermint improves memory and cognition. So chew gum when you test or rub a drop of peppermint oil on your pulse points to get your brain moving.

Avoid hard candy, though—I got so nervous during a high school American History final that I bit down into a peppermint candy and broke a tooth! I ended up taking an impromptu trip to my local Brantford dentist and had to make up the test after school.

On a related note, another of the best test taking success strategies is to avoid eating a heavy breakfast the morning of your test; it will slow your mental processes down and might make you feel sick, especially if you’re nervous. Avoid caffeine, greasy foods, and junk food for the same reasons.

Tool #5: Read

Reading is your best test-friend, even with math or science tests. Never skip reading the directions. Read each question carefully. Make sure you understand what it’s asking before you try to answer it—never assume that you know what the question is.

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