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The Best Way to Take Any Tests

Updated on November 30, 2012
Taking a Test
Taking a Test | Source


If you are like most people, you may hate the pressure that comes with taking tests, any tests. Wouldn't it be great if you knew a set of steps to help ease that pressure?

Most definitely! What you will learn here is tried and true, and have been applied in high school and in college (both undergraduate and graduate levels).

The techniques listed here can help relieve some of the pressure while at the same time maximize your score on any tests--which is what everyone wants to achieve on any tests (e.g. GED, SAT, GMAT, ASVAB and so on).

Here is a quick overview.

  1. Prepare. Study and review the subject matter.
  2. Practice. Tests are timed. You need to practice for testing speed.
  3. Prioritize. Know which problems to solve first.


For any subject matter or topic, you need to prepare for the test by reviewing what was covered in the class leading up to the test; Or if you are dealing with a certification test, you'll need to do some form of subject matter review. This is just a prerequisite, and there is no getting around this, as you need to keep that information as fresh in your mind as possible.

During my engineering undergraduate years, I had to take a basic electrical engineering test and pass it in order to take upper level engineering core courses. It took me two tries to make it through.

The first time, I didn't prepare, relying only on whatever I recalled from the engineering classes I took. I didn't feel confident, and was only hoping for the best. The result? I failed.

The second time, I prepared by buying a book which provided a good review of electrical engineering principles and concepts. I completed the review just before the next scheduled test. This time I felt more confident and relaxed. The result? I passed, and was finally allowed to take upper level engineering courses.

Practice on Sample Tests

In sports, the more you practice, the better and more confident you feel, and the faster and more efficient you get. This is true for taking test as well.

It's not enough to review the test subject matter. You need to practice on some sample tests. This gives your brain experience in seeing, recognizing, and solving problems in a faster way. After all, tests are timed; it doesn't matter if you can solve or answer all questions or problems if you cannot do them in a timely manner.

The good thing is that there are many sources of practice tests.

  1. Some textbooks have practice questions at the end of each chapter. Where do you think some teachers get their pop quiz or test questions?
  2. For SAT, GMAT, LSAT, and so on, you can buy books that have tests you can take similar to the real thing.
  3. For Cisco (e.g. CCNA, CCIE) or Microsoft (e.g. MCSE, MCP) type of certification tests, there are many books you can purchase that will provide practice tests, also similar in format to the ones in the real tests.

In the last section, I mentioned the undergraduate test I had to take in order to be allowed to take upper level engineering courses. What I didn't mention is that in preparation for the second attempt at passing that test, I spent time practicing various sample tests and problems from the electrical engineering review book I used for review.

Doing practice tests gave me the confidence and the necessary speed to complete and pass the test in a timely manner.

As another example, at the beginning of my graduate studies, the school I attended gave us a math (up to calculus level) assessment test. I knew this coming in. In preparation I purchased a calculus review book and practiced the sample tests at the back of each chapter. The result was amazing. I completed the test before the actual time was up, and I scored above 90%!

On Test Day, Prioritize!

Have you ever taken a test and end up not finishing the test? You thought there wasn't enough time to really complete the test.

If so, this section will reveal something that is so obvious, that it may be easy to miss.

Anyway, there is no getting around this. All tests are timed. You need to get it done within a time limit. So there is time pressure which adds to your sense of anxiety.

In order to maximize the amount of time you have, you must prioritize.

Note that this approach will only work on tests that allow you to go back to previous questions or problems. If a test is administered electronically, and you must answer problems in the sequence presented (i.e. you can't go back to prior questions), then there is a different approach to that; I will not cover that here.

However for traditional tests where you are allowed to jump around test questions, you can prioritize the questions you attack first.

In other words, when you take a test, you need to answer those questions or problems that you know and are the quickest to do. After those, do those problems that you know, but take time to solve. Next, attempt to solve or answer the questions you think you might know. Finally, try to answer those problems or questions that you totally don't know.

This prioritization approach prevents you from getting stuck on a problem and wasting time in a test where time is very limited. In most cases, using this approach can give you extra time to recheck answers from previous questions.


To maximize your test score, and gain confidence in taking tests, you need to do these:

  1. Prepare for the test. Make sure to review the subject matter. If necessary purchase books that cover the topic; there are many such books out there. Test preparation helps keep the knowledge fresh in your mind, and it builds test taking confidence.
  2. Practice taking tests. Tests are timed. You need to answer questions as fast as you can. In order to improve your speed, you need to practice taking tests. This has the side effect of building your confidence as well.
  3. Prioritize. You may not know the answers to all questions. This is why you need to prioritize. Make sure you answer the questions you know that answer to and are quick to do. Then do those you know but take time to do. Next do those you somewhat know how to do, and lastly, take a stab at those questions you have no clue about.

If you do these three things, you'll pass your test--guaranteed, or your money back.


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    • forlanda profile image

      Juancho Forlanda 5 years ago from US of A

      Hi Brett. Prioritization is definitely key to completing a timed test. There is nothing worse than running out of time and not having seen all the question yet. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Good advice forlanda ... prioritizing can make the world of difference. Head straight for the big point questions and make sure you get them in the bag before the others. That way, at least you should secure a reasonable pass.

      Shared, up and useful.

    • forlanda profile image

      Juancho Forlanda 5 years ago from US of A

      @daisyjae I'm glad you found something you could use in this article. Prioritization is definitely something some testers don't apply, but it is one of the key points in completing a test in time.

      @photographybyar you are right! Any studying in the world won't help if on the day of the test you are sleepy or getting distracted by hunger. Very good point!

    • photographybyar profile image

      Addie's Momma 5 years ago from Bakersfield, California

      Awesome tips! Also, I would add eat breakfast and get plenty of sleep! :) You can do all of the studying and prioritizing you want but if you study too much and don't get enough sleep it won't matter :) Great tips and great hub! Voted up!

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 5 years ago from Canada

      This is a really helpful article. I am helping my sons study for tests and I had never thought of telling them to prioritize. I will use your tips to help my kids, thank you for writing this.