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How to Prepare for a Test

Updated on December 22, 2012
NYC Public Library: A great place to study for a test.
NYC Public Library: A great place to study for a test. | Source

Starting Off Right

It seems like every other week I have a student come up to me seeking advice about an upcoming test. Taking tests can be hard, especially if you are worried about the outcome of the test or not knowing the subject properly. However there are fundamentals to remember when preparing for a test that can change everything and better facilitate you getting the best grade possible.

Managing Stress

Tests are a major source of stress for many students.The best possible way for you to manage your stress is to be organized and study properly before your test. Fear comes from worrying about not understanding the material and what could happen if you do poorly. Proper studying methods really are the best and only way to be confident on tests. The teacher isn't trying to trick you, or put something out that was not in the material, so just learning it is all you can do.

Of course life happens and sometimes you are not able to study as well as you should - that can lead to a lot of worry about what will happen if you don't do well on the test. But...

What will happen if you don't do well on your test?
It is important to understand a bad test score is not the end of the world. One test should not effect your grade TOO much as your other work should be the bulk of your grade. Even if it is a large part of your grade, it might bring your final grade down a bit but it is only one class out of many. Perfection is a good goal but it is illogical to be too disappointed when you miss that goal, that's what being human is all about.

The Internet is an amazing place to review information for tests, just make sure you don't get sucked into Youtube and Facebook!
The Internet is an amazing place to review information for tests, just make sure you don't get sucked into Youtube and Facebook! | Source

How to Study

To best study for a test, you must first keep up properly with the work you have been doing in the class. You can not expect to not pay attention in class and somehow have all the answers for the test. You should have a clear idea about when your tests are from your teacher. A week or so before your test you should begin reviewing your materials and notes. Pay special attention to areas that you feel you don't remember properly and reread the sections of your books that apply.

There are many ways to review for a test.

  • If you need to know definitions of words or concepts you can write them out in a list, use flash cards, or ask someone to discuss them with you.
  • If you need to know if you understood literature properly you can always look at Wikipedia and other sources that discuss your text (such as academic journals).
  • If it is a writing test, many schools have writing centers with tutors that can help you with your writing, or you can check some of the grammar websites out there.
  • If you are tired of reading and writing, there are sometimes informational videos that can help you for history, literature, or sciences.

Whatever you do, just relax and plan out time and space to be able to study.

Before a Test

Before taking a test it is really important to make sure you have eaten properly, rested properly, and taken care of anything you needed to beforehand, such as going to the restroom. There are few things worse than being uncomfortable and distracted while taking a test, so make sure you have completed everything beforehand in order to be at your peak .


Tips and Tricks to Taking a Test

Multiple Choice:

  • Using the process of elimination: You can usually take out a few answers even if you don't know the answer. You start off with a 25% chance to get the answer right and can usually get it up to 75% if you look at the language of the question and at least know a little bit about the subject.
  • Go with your gut: if you first see an answer you think is right you should stick with it even if you start to doubt later.
  • Look for answers in the test: This is common, especially in literature tests. Often there is a question asking for a definition of a word, then later you come across the word again but it is being used properly in a sentence or even defined for you - make sure you go back and change it if you guessed wrong.


  • Something is better than nothing: Even if the essay is asking for something obscure try to write whatever you can. Blank spaces mean you don't get any points where filling as much as you can gives a chance for the teacher to see you know something, or at least tried.
  • Look for answers in the test: Sometimes if it is a group of essay questions you can also find the answer couched in a different essay question, so make sure you read the whole test completely before you start.

However the best tip you can get: study. Study properly. Research has shown that cramming for tests or trying to study at the last minute does not increase test scores, because you either know it or you don't when it is time to take the test. Chances are that when you try to cram for a test you will just end up getting little sleep and little content retention.

Go Forth and Learn!

I hope you were able to find the information that you were looking for, or even just something that will help you consider a different way of studying. Have fun learning, good luck in taking tests, and remember to stay stress free!

Do you get stressed at tests?

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