Test-Taking Strategies

You've studied hard. What's next?

Nothing takes the place of studying, but even if you have studied, there are test taking strategies you can employ that will make you more successful.

  • If it isn't announced in class, talk with your professor to find out what types of questions (true/false, multiple choice, essay) will be used. Also, sample exams may be available on reserve in the library.
  • Anticipate questions that will be asked on the exam and plan answers to these questions.
  • Go into the exam as rested as possible. The brain is part of the body and if you are tired, so is your brain.
  • Always wear a watch. Begin by looking over the entire test to see how long it is and what type of questions are being asked. Then plan how long you can spend on each section or question. This will keep you from running out of time at the end.
  • Read all instructions carefully.
  • On multiple choice questions read the question being asked and all of the possible answers before selecting one.
  • On true/false questions make sure to read the entire question. The entire answer must be true for the correct answer to be "true".
  • On both multiple choice and true/false tests, answers containing absolutes such as "never", "always", "none", and "every" are usually incorrect.
  • Essay questions often have a high point value so read the question carefully, make a brief outline, and then answer the question including all of the information you can from the text and lecture.
  • If possible, check over your test before turning it in. Errors sometimes occur when you are in a hurry.
  • Finally, after taking the test think about your performance. Did you have more trouble with questions from the text or from the lectures? Did you miss questions because you hadn't studied enough or because you didn't understand the concepts presented? And most important, what can you do differently to prepare for the next test to improve your grade?

Test taking: before, during, after

These strategies can help you be sucessful as a student. Test taking involves both test and mental preparation before, during and after a test. After college, testing does not stop. You may need to take tests to keep your credentials up to date in your professional career and beyond.

Before the test:

  • Schedule daily, weekly and major review sessions
  • Complete and monitor review sessions
  • Create study checklists
  • Create mind map summary sheet
  • Make flash cards
  • Monitor your reviews
  • Take a practice test
  • Get copies of old tests

During the test:

  • Get to class on time, don't do any last minute review
  • Survey the entire test prior to taking the exam
  • Take a few deep breaths and relax tense muscle - repeat throughout the test
  • Read directions carefully - ask questions
  • Answer easier questions first - this will help calm you down
  • Manage your time and keep an eye on the clock

After the test:

  • Reflect:
    • How did you feel about the test?
    • How effective were your study strategies?
    • Did you accurately predict some of the test questions?
  • Review what questions you missed
  • Discuss items you did not understand with your instructor
  • Review your strengths on test taking
  • Reivew areas of improvement

Test taking: question strategies

Multiple choice:

  • Answer each of the questions in your head first
  • Read through all of the answers before selecting one
  • Test each possible answer
  • Eliminate incorrect answers


  • Read the entire question
  • Look for qualifiers (all, never, etc.)
  • Look for details (dates, facts, etc.)
  • Watch out for negatives such as no, not, cannot, etc.

Essay reponse:

  • What is the question asking?
  • Outline your answer
  • Get to the point
  • Write legibly
  • Write on one side of the paper, leave back side for forgotten points