The best test taking tip I can give you is to take the test before you have to take it.
Make sense? Probably not.
Basically, if you take a practice test before your real test, you’re far better prepared for whatever may come on the real test.
Here are a few study tips and ways to get in a good practice test or two before the big show.
Make your own practice test
There are a bunch of ways to make your own practice tests. The first step is always to gather the information that will be on your practice test.
The best place to get this information from is your teacher. A simple “what exactly should I anticipate for the test?” will go a surprisingly long way towards finding out what will be on the test. Other sources for information that your teacher can provide are study guides, course outlines and previous tests. The goal here is to get an idea of what will be on the test.
Once you know roughly what will be on the real test, you can make your practice test based off that.
Gather a few questions about important themes and write them out for yourself. Go through and answer them. If possible, take your practice test under real test conditions. If the real test is timed, time yourself. If you can manage to take it in the same room you’ll take the real test, even better!
Another way of testing yourself is to have a parent or friend test you. Give them your study guide and simply say “quiz me.” You have to ask nicely, obviously, but you get the idea.
The fact that you are not only answering the question but in a way teaching your friend will help cement the answer in your mind. Either that or you will quickly realize that you don’t know the answer!
A final way to make a practice test is in a study group. Say you have four people studying for a history exam. Each of you takes a chapter and comes up with, say, five questions in all different formats (or the ones you know will be on the test). You compile them together and all take the test.
Be careful, though! Study groups can often waste more time than they are worth.
Use an official practice test
If you’re lucky, you’ll have access to practice tests that are pre-made and ready to go. Take advantage of them!
This is especially true if you’re studying for a standardized test like the SAT, PSAT, ACT, ASVAB or a CLEP test. Every single one of these has a multitude of practice tests out there. Some of them are even put out by the company that runs the test!
Get your hands on these … they’re like gold to a serious student. They’re not that hard to find, either, and most come with study manuals and guides on your particular test.
If you are not taking a standardized test, you can even sometimes ask your teacher for an old test they used in years past for practice. (Do not get one from a classmate – that is cheating!) If you’re really desperate, you can even make a copy of a previous test you took and Wite-Out your answers to take it again and find your weaknesses.
Why take a practice test?
The idea behind taking practice tests is to not only get used to the test but also to find your weaknesses.
That is why it is critical to always carefully review any practice tests you take. If you don’t, you lose most of the effectiveness of practice tests.
For example, if I take a few practice SATs and seem to always miss the word/story problems in the math section, I can use that information to focus my study efforts.
Make sense? Good. Now go take a practice test!
What do you think?
Have you used practice tests in your studying? How well do they work for you? Do you have any study tips to share? Join the discussion in the comments below!