Here are some tips for test-taking to help you achieve your best results, along with some techniques on how to best answer certain types of questions.
Arrive early for the test. This will give you a chance to relax and mentally prepare.
Pay attention to verbal directions given when the test is handed out, then scan the test. If the professor notes how many points each section is worth, budget your time to make sure you give yourself plenty of time on the higher-point sections.
Read the directions at least twice to make sure you don't make the frustrating mistake of losing points because you don't do what is asked of you. If you have a choice of 3 out of 5 questions to answer, it can be especially exasperating to do all 5 before you realize you only had to choose 3. If a direction confuses you, ask about it.
If there are formulas, facts, equations, etc. you will need during the test, jot them down before you begin on the test paper (using another sheet of paper may look like cheating). Remembering these before having to use them can be a great stress relief.
Answer questions in the following order: easy, short questions—this starts your brain thinking about the subject matter you will need to know for more difficult questions: multiple choice; true/false and fill-in-the-blank questions; short answer and essay questions.
Look for answers in other test questions. Other questions can also stimulate your memory.
Answer each question in your head before looking at the possible answers. You won't be as easily confused by the wrong answers.
Carefully read each answer before choosing one.
Eliminate answers that are obviously wrong.
When you have no clue as to the correct answer:
If two answers are similar, except for one or two words, choose one of these answers.
If two answers have similar sounding or looking words (intermediate/intermittent), choose one of these answers.
If answers cover a wide range (1, 40, 79, 108, 541), choose one in the middle of the range.
HINT—C is the most common answer on homemade tests. Also, the longest, most specific answer is usually correct.
Read carefully. Watch for key words. Be alert for definitions that are reversed. Remember, if ANY part of the statement is false, the answer is false.
Techniques for True-False Questions
Answer true/false questions quickly. Often these questions are not worth many points individually.
Look for absolute statements such as ALWAYS, NONE, NEVER. These are key words. If you believe it is TRUE, make sure the statement is correct always, none, never, etc. These questions are often false.
Techniques for Fill-in-the-blank Questions
This is an area where over-learning while studying can really help. This section of the test will be much quicker because the sentences will often be similar to those in the textbook or lectures.
If you are stuck, scan the test looking for words that might remind you of the correct answer.
Pay attention to the part of speech and tense of the word(s) that are being requested. This will help you at least have a clue whether the word(s) you chose fit the sentence.
Techniques for Essay Questions
If possible, predict what the essay questions will be beforehand and prepare during your study time to answer them. (Some professors give a list of possible essay questions or ideas for essays to allow you to prepare for the test.)
Bring several pens with you for the exam and write your essay in ink. With many essays to read, the professors appreciate being able to read the answers clearly.
Pay close attention to the words used in the question. Understanding exactly what is being asked is crucial to answering correctly.
Analyze - Break into separate parts and discuss, examine, or interpret each part
Compare - Examine two or more things; identify similarities and differences
Contrast - Show differences between two or more things
Define - Give the meaning, usually specific to the course
Discuss - Consider the pros and cons of an issue; this includes compare and contrast
Evaluate - Give your opinion or the opinion of an expert; include evidence
Illustrate - Give concrete examples and explain clearly
Outline - Describe main ideas, characteristics, or events (not necessarily a structured, Roman numeral outline)
Prove - Support with facts
Summarize - Give a brief, condensed account, avoiding unnecessary details
Trace - Show the order of events or progress of a subject or event