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Test Taking Tips

When you take a test, you are demonstrating your ability to understand course materials or perform certain tasks. Some tests are objective and others are subjective. The objective test questions are true-false, multiple choice or fill-in-the blank. The subjective tests are short answers, essays, or oral exams. It is normal to feel nervous about an upcoming test, but here are some strategies to help you to reduce anxiety:

Before the exam:

  • Be thoroughly prepared by managing your time in the weeks before the exam to gain not only knowledge, but also confidence in the class material.
  • Review relevant material a few days before the exam. Avoid cramming on the day of the exam, as this may lead to increased anxiety.
  • Avoid individuals who are negative about the upcoming exam.
  • Try to eat well, drink plenty of fluids, and get enough sleep in the days leading to your exam.
  • Arrange your exam time and location well in advance of the deadline, which will help you avoid the possibility that you might not get an appointment in time.
  • If you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, contact your campus accommodations coordinator about the types of arrangements that can be made to assist you in taking your exam. At the very least, inform your proctor that you have test anxiety.
  • Make sure that you have all necessary materials with you before you leave for your exam.
  • Arrive at your appointment early.

Sitting the exam:

  • Check in with your proctor. If necessary, ask for clarification on any test requirements prior to starting.
  • Once you have settled in your seat, take a few deep breaths, and exhale slowly. If you have stomach jitters, take a deep enough breath to expand your diaphragm muscle, and hold for 2-3 seconds and then release.
  • Try this calming exercise: look around you and find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
  • Answer questions in a strategic order. Read through all the instructions carefully before you begin. Look through the entire test for structure and plan your test strategy accordingly. Start with easy questions to build confidence, then work on those with the most point value. On objective questions, eliminate obvious incorrect answers. On essay tests, broadly outline your answer and sequence of points.
  • If your test is timed, allow more time for higher point questions.  If you can't come up with an answer in a reasonable time, move on and come back at the end. Make sure to carefully read and attempt to answer all questions.
  • Allow yourself to change positions, stretch, etc. to stay relaxed during the exam.
  • Try using positive self-talk:
    • "Feel the fear and do it anyway."
    • "Other people feel this too. I am not alone."
    • " I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.  I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."  Frank Herbert - Dune