Start Making Tests Work for You, Orange County!

The next time you or your student sits down for a test, don’t start where everyone else does. It’s a common assumption that tests must be completed in numerical order, as quickly as possible, and without revision; most of the time, that’s just wrong. Every test is different, but consider our tips below to see what tools you can bring to your next test, and how they can greatly improve your chances of a higher grade and less anxiety.


• You’ve probably seen it before. Are you taking a test from a familiar teacher? Many
instructors format their tests the same way and tend to quiz concepts at the same difficulty level.

• Tell stress to take a hike. Talking to classmates about a test immediately before can make things worse, and even put distracting or wrong information in your mind. Stress is also contagious, so steer clear of any nervous or panicking students. Still feeling panicked? Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine you’re on the beach, or taking a quaint stroll through Trabuco Canyon Trail.

• Look away! Do you become distracted easily? If it’s an option, choose a seat at the front or sides of the room where you can turn your gaze away from any diversions.

• Get the bigger picture. If there’s time, take a moment to look over the entire exam. Keep an eye out for key words, and jot down any information you don’t want to forget; some tutors call this a “brain-dump.” You can typically use the margin or a piece of scratch paper to organize your thoughts, but always remember to ask ahead of time.

• Let strategy be your guide. Now you’re ready to proceed, but try these approaches first before simply starting at number one:

o Scan the test for easy questions first; that will help build your confidence.

o Move next to the questions with most point value. This ensures the time you spend on harder questions is worth it.

o For multiple choice tests, try to supply your own answer first; you’d be surprised how often students choose wrong answers simply because it “looked correct,” but later realize that clearly was not the answer.

o Similarly, eliminate obvious incorrect answers; getting things out of the way can help you focus on the real choices.

o Lastly, on essay exams, always make a quick outline in the margin or on scratch paper. It should only take one to five minutes to outline an answer. Remember, nothing is worse than a one page essay that doesn’t answer the question.

• Not so fast. It’s hard not to throw down the pencil and run from the room, but take time to review your answers. There could be silly mistakes, or a question at the end may provide clues to one that had you stumped in the beginning.

As a reminder, some tests are designed to be taken in numerical order; for example, some standardized tests. Always read directions carefully before you begin. If you do find yourself able to utilize some of these strategies, try them out. There is nothing wrong with turning the tables a bit and making the test work for you!

test-scores-featureWhy should you listen to us? Because our private Orange County, Irvine, and San Diego tutors have impressive college degrees. In other words, we’ve taken a lot of tests and know how to do well.

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