General Education

Think You’re A Bad Test Taker? 10 Strategies That Can Help

Think You’re A Bad Test Taker? 10 Strategies That Can Help
We are all born with a fight or flight instinct, the basis for test anxiety. Image from Unsplash
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Alexandra Piacenza September 11, 2014

If you get the cold sweats the night before a big exam, or freeze up when you see a blank answer sheet, take a look at these tips and transform yourself from stress tester to best tester.

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If you read this title and thought “Yeah, that’s me” — here’s one instant way to start improving your test-taking skills — stop labeling yourself a “bad test taker”!

There is a bit more to it than that, but concentrating your efforts on good test taking strategies is likely to result in better test outcomes. The two areas to focus on are:

  1. Your mental/emotional state (including negative thinking!).
  2. Strategies to prepare for and actually complete a test. explains that no one is born a bad test taker. However what we are all born with is a fight or flight instinct, the basis for test anxiety.

When you regard a test as a threat, that automatic fear response kicks in and makes it much harder to recall and apply your knowledge. You may even experience distracting physical symptoms such as a queasy stomach, pounding heart, or headache. However, you can get and keep test anxiety under control.

Attitude Adjustment

1. Ease up on the perfectionist attitude. Sure you want to do well, but perfect test scores are pretty rare. If you’ve prepared, you can expect a good outcome.

2. Say, “I choose to…” instead of, “I have to take this test.” Acknowledge that this is a step in your academic/life plan and take ownership of it.

3. Block out the ticking clock and other anxious students by using your mind’s eye to visualize a relaxing place like a sunny meadow or beach.

4. Think positively during the test. Mentally repeating a positive mantra both calms you down and induces a positive attitude. You might try “I’m calm and confident” or “I remember what I’ve studied.”

5. Clean out any doubts that are planted in your mind by others. Write down the comments of any downers you’ve heard and provide a positive answer to them, then wad up the paper and throw it away!

Test Preparation

1. Practice good study habits like having a comfortable well-lit study area and eliminate distractions like music or television noise.

2. Don’t cram for a test the night before; it really won’t help since you won’t have time to process the information into memory.

3. Get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy meal beforehand. Protein is brain food; sugar will just give you a brief burst of energy followed by a low.

4. Start with the questions you find easiest to answer while taking the test.

5. Use the process of elimination for multiple choice questions and scratch out wrong answers.

Chuck those negative labels and you are on your way to becoming a great test-taker!


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