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Test-Taking Tips

Do you sweat, chew your pencil, and feel butterflies in your stomach as your teacher hands out a test? A lot of people (adults included) get freaked out when it's time to take a test.

It's natural to feel some stress about taking tests. In fact, sometimes a little adrenaline (a hormone made by your body during times of excitement or stress) is a good thing to jump-start you.

How Can I Get Better at Taking Tests?

Here are some tips for taking tests:

  • Go into the test with confidence. In other words, make sure you’ve done enough studying to feel confident that you know the material. Staying confident makes it easier to remember everything you need to know.
  • Get enough sleep the night before the test. Your memory recall will be much better if you've had enough sleep. A scientific study showed that people who got enough sleep before taking a math test did better than those who stayed up all night studying.
  • Put away all your study materials before the test. Many students will still be frantically reviewing the material 10 minutes before the test gets handed out, but this won’t help you do any better. It’s more important for you to clear your mind and relax during this time, so you’ll save your mental energy for the actual test.
  • Listen closely to any instructions. As the teacher hands out the test, be sure you know what's expected of you.
  • Read through the test first. When you have the test in front of you, go through it to see how long it is. This will let you estimate how much time you have for each section and ask the teacher any questions. If something seems unclear before you start, don't panic: ask.
  • Answer the questions in any order. As you take the test, if you don't know an answer try not to get stuck on it. Instead, answer the best way you can, or skip over the question and come back to it later. You may find it easier to answer a question you’ve skipped after you've answered other questions.
  • Relax. If you're so nervous that you blank out, you might need a mini-break. You can wiggle your fingers and toes, take 4 or 5 deep breaths, or picture yourself on a beach or some other calm place. You can even stretch a little at your desk (but try to avoid distracting the other students).
  • Running out of time? It’s OK if you don’t finish every question on the test. Do your best to answer the questions you can, and keep an eye on the clock so you know how much time is left for any remaining questions you still need to answer. You can always guess if you’re stuck on some of the questions and time is running out.
  • Finished already? Although most teachers will let you hand a test in early, it's usually a good idea to spend any extra time checking your work. Take a minute to breathe deeply and clear your mind before reviewing your answers. You may end up adding more details to some of your answers that you didn’t think you'd have time for.

These tips should help most people, but some can get serious test-taking stress. If you're one of them, you may need to talk to a parent, teacher, or counselor for help.

Good luck!

Reviewed by: Colleen O'Shea, M.Ed
Date Reviewed: Aug 1, 2023

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