All students have to take tests in school. In some classes, there may be only a few tests each semester while in others tests are given every week. Whatever your situation is, it is a good study strategy to have a general idea of how to take tests.

Getting to know the teacher’s testing style is a good way to begin preparing for a test. Talk to other students who have had the teacher in the past. This will give you an idea about what to expect. Also, determine the ground rules for the tests such as what the scoring rules are. For example, if you find out that wrong answers are penalized, do not guess unless you can reduce the choices to two.

For most teachers, the three most common types of tests they give are: the true/false, multiple-choice, matching, and sentence completion. Below are some tips you can use to plan you test-taking strategy:

1. Survey the test. By surveying the test, you can quickly determine what types of questions are being asked, and formulate your test-taking strategy.

2. Always read the directions, and do exactly what they instruct. Many students unnecessarily fail tests because they did not read the directions.

3. Answer the easy questions first. After that, go back, and tackle the harder questions. That way, if you take too long with the difficult questions, you will still be able to complete the exam.

4. True/false questions are considered easy because every word in the statement must be true in order for the statement to be true. If any word is not true, that makes the entire statement false. If a statement contains two clauses, one of which is false, the whole statement is false.

5. Multiple choice questions are essentially true-false questions arranged in groups so you should read them the same way. Answer the easiest questions first. Read long sentences more than once. Eliminate obvious false choices. Usually, only one alternative is correct. Watch for “all of the above” and “none of the above” answers. Remember to always look for the best answer, and always make a choice unless you are penalized for guessing.

6. Matching types of questions. The methods used to answer true-false and multiple-choice questions apply to matching and completion questions as well. Always scan the entire list of alternatives before matching any, identify keywords in each list, and test them. Completion questions require you to provide a word or phrase. When you encounter completion questions, choose your words carefully. If you don't know the answer, and there is no penalty, give it your best guess.

Once you have completed the test, check over the answer sheet to be certain that you have answered all of the questions, and put the correct answer with the correct number.

Change the answers only if you misread the questions, or if you know that you answered the questions incorrectly.

As always, come to class on time or early on a test day, and come prepared. Bring a pen, pencil, and paper. Keep the room conditions in consideration, and dress appropriately. If the room has very strong air conditioning and is usually cold, bring a sweater. On the other hand, if the room is not air-conditioned or has poor air circulation, dress as lightly as possible to keep cool.

Elizabeth Hamilton, M.E., MA, is a teacher with 31 years of professional experience. You can write to her at with your questions or comments.


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