The most important way to prepare for a test or an exam is to study the materials and take practice tests. In addition, there are a few strategies you can use on the day of the test to help you stay alert, calm and positive.
Before the test/exam
- Double check the date, time, time zone and link or location of the test/exam.
- Avoid cramming the night before. You’ll benefit more from getting a good night’s rest than using that time to study.
- For online tests, organize the resources you are permitted to use and check your computer and internet connection.
- For in-person exams, plan out how you will get to the testing location ahead of time. Check the weather to see if you need to give yourself extra travel time. Check transit schedules and look up parking information.
- Avoid studying right before the test/exam starts. Give yourself a break and practice your self-care activities (yoga, go to the gym, meditation, breathing exercises, etc.)
- Eat well & hydrate before the test/exam.
- Arrive early to the test website/room and avoid talking to classmates about the test/exam. Find a quiet location so that you can use this time to clear your head.
- Take a moment to relax and maintain a positive attitude. Be confident in your ability to do well.
During the test/exam
- For online tests, close all unnecessary tabs in your browser and put away all smart devices like phones and tablets.
- Do a memory dump and write down any important information before you begin.
- Skim over the questions. Start with questions you know you can do and come back to the questions that require more thought.
- Keep track of time. Take into consideration the worth of each section and judge your time accordingly.
- Read the question thoroughly. Underline or highlight key words or statements. Make sure you are answering the question being asked.
- Be as detailed as possible. You need to show the professor what you know. Don’t skip steps or information because it seems obvious, especially for written and computational tests.
- For in-person exams, unless you need the space, don’t waste time erasing. It eats up time and you may need that work to help you complete the question.
- Filling in a scantron sheet? Use a ruler to help you fill in the correct bubble
- If you start to feel panicked, give yourself a minute. Focus on slowing down your breathing. Then move onto another question and come back to the original question later.
- Review your work. If there is time, redo questions you’re unsure about. Ensure you haven’t made a copying error (i.e. write down a 2 when the number is an 3).
After the test/exam
- Let go of any negative feelings, and reward yourself! Even if you need to devote your attention to preparing for another assessment, your brain needs a break before you dive back into studying!
- Once the test/exam has been graded, learn from your mistakes. Think about the kind of errors you made. Did you fail to read the question properly? Ask yourself why you missed a question. Was it because you were rushing through the questions?
- If you are unsure why you got a particular mark or why you lost marks, talk to your professor or TA.
- Use the feedback to help you decide how you will approach your next test/exam. Talk to a Learning Strategist about how you can improve your study skills.