Tips for Better Test Taking

General test preparation

To do well on tests you must first learn the material, and then review it before the test.
These are techniques to better understand your material:


  • Take good notes in your class lectures and textbooks
  • Review your notes soon after class/lecture
  • Review notes briefly before the next class
  • Schedule some time at the end of the week for a longer review


  • Take good notes
    about as your teacher tells you what will be on the test
  • Organize your notes, texts, and assignments
    according to what will be on the test
  • Estimate the hours you’ll need to review materials
  • Draw up a schedule
    that blocks units of time and material
  • Test yourself on the material
  • Finish your studying the day before the exam

10 Tips for Test Taking

When you take a test, you are demonstrating your ability to understand course material or perform certain tasks.
Successful test taking avoids carelessness.

Examples of objective tests are true-false, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank.

Examples of subjective texts are short answer, essay, or oral exams

NB: If you have any doubts about the fairness of tests, or of the ability of tests to measure your performance, please see your academic counseling service.

These suggestions and links at left may help you succeed in having your abilities properly evaluated and efforts rewarded!

  1. Analyze how you did on a similar test in the past.
    Review your previous tests and sample tests provided by your teacher.
    Each test you take prepares you for the next one!
  2. Arrive early for tests.
    List what you need beforehand to avoid panic.
    Good preparation prepares you for the task at hand.
  3. Be comfortable but alert.
    Choose a comfortable location with space enough that you need
    Don’t slouch; maintain good posture.
  4. Stay relaxed and confident.
    Keep a good attitude and remind yourself that you are going to do your best.
    If you find yourself panicking, take a few deep breaths
    Don’t talk to other students right before: stress can be contagious.
  5. Read directions carefully
    and avoid careless errors.
  6. If there is time, quickly look through the test for an overview.
    Scan for keywords. If permitted, jot any notes that come to mind.
  7. Answer questions in a strategic order:
    Easy questions first to build confidence.
    Then those with the most point value.
    On objective tests, eliminate obvious incorrect answers.
    On essay tests, broadly outline your answer and sequence of points.
  8. Review! if you have time.
    Resist the urge to leave when you complete the exam — check if you have answered all the questions, and not made any errors or mis-marked any answers.
  9. Change answers to questions if you erred, or misread the question!
    You may also find information in the test that will correct a previous answer.
  10. Decide on and adopt study strategies that work best for you.
    Review where you succeed and where you are challenged.
    Check out your academic support center or a trusted teacher for advice.

Multiple choice tests

Test strategies:

  • Read the directions carefully
    Know if each question has one or more correct option
    Know if you are penalized for guessing
    Know how much time is allowed (this governs your strategy)
  • Preview the test
    Read through the test quickly and answer the easiest questions first
    Mark those you think you know in some way that is appropriate
  • Read through the test a second time and answer more difficult questions
    You may pick up cues for answers from the first reading, or become more comfortable in the testing situation
  • If time allows, review both questions and answers
    It is possible you mis-read questions the first time

Answering options
Improve your odds, think critically:

Cover the options, read the stem, and try to answer
Select the option that most closely matches your answer

Read the stem with each option
Treat each option as a true-false question, and choose the “most true”

Strategies for answering difficult questions

  1. Eliminate options you know to be incorrect
    If allowed, mark words or alternatives in questions that eliminate the option
  2. Give each option of a question the “true-false test:”
    This may reduce your selection to the best answer
  3. Question options that grammatically don’t fit with the stem
  4. Question options that are totally unfamiliar to you
  5. Question options that contain negative or absolute words.
    Try substituting a qualified term for the absolute one.
    For example, frequently for always; or typical for every to see if you can eliminate an option
  6. “All of the above:”
    If you know two of three options seem correct, “all of the above” is a strong possibility
  7. Number answers:
    toss out the high and low and consider the middle range numbers
  8. “Look alike options” probably one is correct; choose the best but eliminate choices that mean basically the same thing, and thus cancel each other out
  9. Double negatives:
    Create the equivalent positive statement
  10. Echo options:
    If two options are opposite each other, chances are one of them is correct
  11. Favor options that contain qualifiers
    The result is longer, more inclusive items that better fill the role of the answer
  12. If two alternatives seem correct, compare them for differences, then refer to the stem to find your best answer


  • Always guess when there is no penalty for guessing or you can eliminate options
  • Don’t guess if you are penalized for guessing and if you have no basis for your choice
  • Use hints from questions you know to answer questions you do not.
  • Change your first answers when you are sure of the correction, or other cues in the test cue you to change.

Remember that you are looking for the best answer, not only a correct one, and not one which must be true all of the time, in all cases, and without exception.

Open book exams

In an open book exam
you are evaluated on understanding rather than recall and memorization.

You will be expected to

  • apply material to new situations
  • analyze elements and relationships
  • synthesize, or structure
  • evaluate using your material as evidence

Access to content (books, notes, etc.) varies by instructor.
The exam can be take home or in the classroom with questions seen or unseen before exam time

Do not underestimate the preparation needed for an open book exam:
your time will be limited, so the key is proper organization in order to quickly find data, quotes, examples, and/or arguments you use in your answers.


  • Keep current on readings and assignments in class
  • Prepare brief, concise notes on ideas and concepts being tested
  • Carefully select what you intend to bring with you to the exam, and note anything significant about what you do not
  • Include your own commentary on the information that will provide fuel for your arguments, and demonstrate that you have thought this through
  • Anticipate with model questions, but not model answers.
    Challenge yourself instead with how you would answer questions, and what options and resources you may need to consider.

Test taking:

  • Read the questions carefully to understand what is expected.
    Refer to our guide on Essay exam terms/directives
  • Make good use of time
    Quickly review the number of questions and note how much time each could take.
    First answer the questions that you are confident of and/or for which you will not need much time checking out the resources.
    Leave more complex and difficult questions for later
  • Don’t over-answer
    Aim for concise, accurate, thoughtful answers that are based in evidence.