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How to Pass Any Exam or Every Test with These Techniques

Updated on December 25, 2012
Taking a test
Taking a test | Source

Are you nervous about that exam?

There's a lot that goes into preparing for a test. You might feel prepared as far as the material goes, but you may be as nervous as you can be. I've known people who don't do their best because of nerves. That's a shame. If there was a way you could study to help you alleviate those nerves, would you do it?

Sure, if you have an issue with pre-test anxiety, you probably would try different study methods to help lessen those anxious feelings. Knowing your material as well as you think you ever could does a lot in lowering the anxiety level. It does wonders for your mental status. Believe me, I know.

I have taken lots of tests in my life--as an undergraduate in college, as a graduate student, and later in my professional career. My final exam for my master's degree in English literature was a comprehensive oral exam covering the history of the written language from Beowulf to present. Yes, the entire history of written literature. Talk about nervous! I didn't even have an undergraduate degree in English and thus had a lot of catching up to do.

I've taken licensing exams in social work and nursing home administration, the latter of which was one of the most challenging exams I've ever had to take. I was working full-time and studying at night. For about six months, I studied using the four-step method that I had come up with in graduate school.

I'll explain my four-step process: read, write, speak, and listen. Sound pretty basic? Well, it really is, but you have to follow every step. Using this method of studying will help you to mentally prepare yourself to take any exam.

Step #1: Read the material

Reading the material is the common sense way to start studying. Read through all the materials you have to study. In my case, as a graduate student, I read books, plays, short stories, and poetry--reading and reviewing the whole history of literature over the course of two years of my graduate program. I was continually reading, as I had to complete the massive amount of required items on our reading list. I even posted in my house huge sheets of papers with time lines and time periods I needed to learn. These visual reminders were spread throughout my house.

In studying for the exam to be a nursing home administrator, I read any material that I could get my hands on relating to the requirements. I studied the history of personnel and management; the ins and outs of accounting, finance, and budgeting; and state and federal regulations regarding nursing homes. I had volumes of books and study guides to read.

Whether you're studying for a straight-forward chapter test or for an intensive exam where your career is on the line, this four-step study method can help give you confidence and ensure your success.

So, now that you've read all the study material, what's next?

I have filled hundreds of note cards over the years to study for tests.
I have filled hundreds of note cards over the years to study for tests. | Source

Step #2: Write it down

After reading comes writing. Write it down! You can write in various ways. As you read over your study materials--either the first time or when you review it again--annotate the documents. This just means to underline key passages and make a few notes in the margins to summarize the important stuff. These handwritten notes will draw your attention to what's important every time you review the material. Consider going through the first time and annotating with a certain colored pen or pencil. With your second read-through, use a different color to make notes or mark through old notes. With review comes clarity, and you may want to change your notes to reflect your learning. You will be able to keep up with how your thoughts and knowledge about the material have progressed.

Another way to reinforce the information in your brain is to make note cards with the information. Put a question or definition on one side of the card with the answer on the other. These are great for reviewing, either by yourself or with a study partner. Although it takes time to write up all the note cards for study, the act of writing down information you need to know will further imprint the knowledge onto your memory.

Step #3: Speak the material aloud

You've read and written the material. Now, speak the information aloud to further learn the material. I spoke my information aloud by quizzing myself with the note cards.The facts came out my mouth and into my ears--dual learning there. I would often read my study info out loud while pacing around the house. Does pacing help? I'm not sure, but it seemed to help me further "step" the data into my brain.

Also, on major tests such as my Master's exam or licensing exam, I spoke everything from my study materials into a recorder, which leads into the fourth step of listening.

Step #4: Listen to it!

So how do you listen to the material that you've now read, written, and voiced? I would listen to my recordings whenever I could--while I was cleaning house, driving, and even mowing. Often for home studying, I would read, write, and speak the material. On the road, I would listen. With all of these different learning methods inundating my mind with the study material, my brain had no choice but to learn the stuff, which was a great way to alleviate test anxiety. By the time I finally took the exam, I was confident--although nervous--that I would pass it. This feeling was a huge turn-around from the scattered thoughts and sickening nerves that had encompassed me in the beginning.

Try my four-step study method

Now you have the four-step method that I've learned over time. These techniques help not only in learning the material that must be studied, but they also help to lower the anxiety level. After studying in this manner, engaging all the senses, I have felt confident that I would do well on any test. After using the four-step method, you may feel, as I have, that you haven't crammed for a test but have actually learned the material. It's in your head and ready to come out on that exam.

Try this method. See if it works for you, too.

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    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      12 months ago from Arkansas, USA

      Monica, these strategies have always worked for me. I have done well on nearly every test I've taken. Best of luck to you!

    • profile image

      Monica 

      13 months ago

      I'm going to try your tips, Victoria. I just took a real estate exam and failed. All I did was, read, took notes and take the online test taker. I guess that wasn't good enough.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      nanderson500--It does for sure! Thanks for reading and voting!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      jainismus--Thanks for reading and commenting. These tips have proved to be very useful to me.

    • nanderson500 profile image

      nanderson500 

      5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Nice job, with all these different strategies the info will stick in your brain for sure! Voted up.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 

      5 years ago from Pune, India

      Great tips. This method is very useful, thanks for sharing.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      manicpanicplease--This method can't help but help! :-)

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      mmsu--It works! Try it if you have a big test coming up!

    • manicpanicplease profile image

      L Brander 

      5 years ago from Canada

      Great hub! I'll totally be using this for my classes. This method will really cement the course materiel into my brain. Thanks so much for the tips!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Julie--Studying like this has gotten me through some tough exams. Thanks for reading!

    • mmsu profile image

      mmsu 

      5 years ago from Pakistan

      My sister uses exactly the same method and she often urges me to follow it!!Great hub!!

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      5 years ago from Clinton CT

      Oh, how I wish I had this handy article in college!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      CC, these techniques worked for me. The recording helps in so many ways, and I could listen to it over and over. Yes, for two years, I read, took notes on what I read, listened to stuff, taught comp classes as a grad asst, threw some great grad school parties and drank beer at beer pong parties! Grad school was such an experience, both good and bad. It's a TON of work. Oh, and all the papers. LOOOOOOOng papers. But if you ever go, let me know!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      5 years ago from Western NC

      Well, ya know, Sis, I've done all three of the first steps, but I didn't try "recording" - hmm. That's a great idea! Nice job! I've often thought about a Master's in English, but I had friends who did it and all they did for two solid years was read. LOL. I'm too impatient for that. Hehe. But, I'll refer back to this next time I'm due to take an exam. :D

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, laadhy! These tips worked for me. Got me through a lot of really tough exams!

    • laadhy profile image

      laadhy 

      6 years ago from Maldives- The Paradise on Earth

      Really very helpful tips, Thank you

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      thanks, Linda Trotman! Yes, I actually have thought of publishing a book. I could probably expound on these ideas as I have lived through them. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • profile image

      Linda Trotman 

      6 years ago

      Have you thought of publishing a book.....this is great information/techniques and people get paid to publish some awful stuff.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, BigEd. You're very welcome.

    • BigEd5857 profile image

      BigEd5857 

      6 years ago

      Awesome. Bookmarking. Thank You Ms. Victoria.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      These methods worked for me, Mary, for some major exams. Hope they help your students!

    • Mary Stuart profile image

      Mary 

      6 years ago from Washington

      Makes me want to go back to school. Thank you for your great ideas. I work with students with test anxieties. i will pass your ideas on to them.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      laurel536--Reading notes aloud really does help. Yes, try recording and listening back. It will add another level to your studies!

    • profile image

      laurel536 

      6 years ago from North Carolina, United States

      As an undergrad student, I spend a lot of my time studying for various exams. I only recently started reading my notes aloud to help me remember and I have been surprised at how much it helps. Now I have to try your suggestion about recording myself and playing it back.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Exactly, networmed! You got it! The audio really does help!

    • networmed profile image

      networmed 

      6 years ago from SPL

      Hi Victoria... Tip #3 and 4 are absolutely true. This can be recorded in a digital voice recorder or even in PC or laptop with builtin microphone, convert to mp3 and load it up in iPod or any mp3 player.

      That is why I like to have both the book and the audiobook for any book I want to read.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, prasetio! I love when people learn new things. After all, I AM a teacher! :-)

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 

      6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative hub, Victoria. I always learn many things from you. Thanks for writing. I should make my English better than before. God bless you!

      Prasetio

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      You're welcome, priya. Glad to share the tips and hope they are helpful!

    • profile image

      priya 

      6 years ago

      THESE 4 TIPS ARE REALLY VERY HELPFUL TO ME.THANKS ALOT........ AND CONGRATES FOR CREATING THIS IDEAS TO EVERYONE.THANKYOU...................

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Vellur--I try to be a super woman! :-) Got that from my mother. Thanks for your support and great comments!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      These tips are great. You sure are a superwoman doing so many things at a time. Great hub. Voted up.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Roger that, Ruchira! You're cool!

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 

      6 years ago from United States

      yup, did all the above Vicki and am thankful for possessing a pile of certificates under my arm ;)

      These sure are helpful methods...roger that!

      Voted up and sharing!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      EuroCafeAuLait--Your name sounds delish! :-) So glad this hub can help your colleagues. I hope it works for them. Thanks!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, Debby. When I have to study, I do want to do well, and I found something that worked. Love those note cards! AND your comments!

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Hi, Vicki - Great! Just in the nick of time. I passed my final, but have four colleagues with an exam next week. Sharing on my Facebook page, hope it helps get them over the hump. Great topic with Spring exams. Up and useful!.

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 

      6 years ago

      Dear Vicki ~ Wise words given here. You must be a study guru. Oy ~ all those index cards we stacked up and carried around with rubber bands and in little file holders. How many times we reviewed facts and concepts just to pass an exam. Anxiety! Then Whew! Blessings, Debby (vote awesome and useful)

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      AEvans--Great! Let me know how it works. These study methods worked great for me. I'll use them again if I ever need to study again! :-)

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Lord--Kelly the Bunny? :-) A grad school friend of mine will vouch for these tips, too. He was often my study partner, although not quite as radical a study warrior as I was! ha Thanks, Lord!!!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I hear ya, RealH! Repetition works great! :-)

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, teaches! "Stellar hub"--I appreciate that. Great comments. I have still felt tense before a test, but I pretty much know that I have the material down pretty well. Thanks again!

    • AEvans profile image

      Julianna 

      6 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      I will use this in the summer when I am back in school. Thanks for the tips. Bookmarked. Thumbs up and shared. :)

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 

      6 years ago from New York

      Wow! Kelly the Bunny writing over. These are excellent tips, and I have seen friends at College going through that nrevousness. Good and great ideas.

      LORD

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Great tips! I do rewrite things - like some of the math formulas - I'd write them over and over and over and over and over...you get the picture:) lol Repetition works for me!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      sam209--Cool about using this type of method with song-writing. I guess it's the same principle. These methods have been great for learning info for big exams. Thanks for the feedback!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Your ideas are great aids to getting a good score on any test. I also believe that studying hard, writing and taking notes will help the retention of information. Although, I still have to work out the nervous tension prior to taking the exam. Thanks for sharing, Victoria. You've written another stellar hub!

    • sam209 profile image

      sam209 

      6 years ago

      I like your methods. It's been awhile since I've been tested, but in the future these lessons will be helpful if/when the time comes to pass an exam. Actually I use these methods when writing a song. After researching the subject I'm writing about, I take notes. After the lyrics are done, I read it out loud and record it, so I can hear what the audience will be hearing. Thanks for this informative piece!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Awesome, Canada! Glad to be of service. These techniques really are how I got through grad school, especially that oral exam. Woo! Let me know how things go with your students. Hugs from Arkansas!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, Susan, for the comments and for sharing. These methods really do work!

    • profile image

      Canada 

      6 years ago

      Hey Vic: this advice comes at an opportune time, since my students are a mere three weeks away from finals. I'll be providing this four step method in my lecture notes when I discuss exam prep.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      onlooker--It does work, doesn't it! Hope these methods help others. Thanks for the comments!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I've found reading, then taking notes of what I've just read, reading them out loud and writing them over again tends to make the info stick in my brain. Great article and steps on studying.

      Up useful and awesome! Sharing too :)

    • profile image

      onlooker 

      6 years ago

      Ahh yes, the classic read and write technique, always works for me. Useful information, Victoria thank you!

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