Like or not, tests have a significant impact on our personal and academic goals. In order to get into college, to get some jobs, to get promoted to the next grade, you have to pass tests, and the list goes on. Even if your goal is to get out of Mrs. Smith’s High School Math class, you still have to pass a few tests to get out of the class. Although everyone is not a good test taker, you can learn to become one. However, it doesn’t just happen by making a wish; test success must be planned. Intentionally incorporate some of the following test strategy tips into your plans.
*Before You Begin the Test
Write any formulas, short cuts, memory tricks (mnemonics, acrostics, or acronyms), or notes that are not provided to you. If you can’t write on the test, ask permission to write them on a piece of scratch paper. For example, “PEMDAS” used to remember the order of operations.
*Familiarize Yourself With the Test
Read directions. Note if the questions are assigned different point values. If so, plan to work the problems with more value points first. If not, work the easy ones first. When I was in college, a professor administered a full test, but on the last page the directions were to work only half the questions.
*Isolate the Problem
If seeing a lot of problems on a page makes you nervous, use another sheet of paper and cover up all the problems on the page except the one you are solving.
Don’t spend too much time on one problem. If you get stuck, circle or mark it in some way and come back to it later.
*Read the Problem Twice
During the second reading, underline the question and circle information that will help you answer the question. Cross out the extra or unnecessary information.
*Browse Your Answer Choices for Insight
They can give you an idea of what’s required. In other words, it may not be necessary to completely solve the problem. Instead, you may only need to set up the equation. Also, the answer choices may have a different unit than the word problem which indicates a conversion is required.
Browse Multiple Choice Answers to Eliminate
Most of the time, there are two choices you can automatically eliminate. In other words, they are obviously wrong. Now you have a 50/50 chance of choosing the correct answer.
*Substitute Smaller Numbers
Large numbers, fractions, and decimals seem to unnerve some people. So, take control and replace them with smaller whole numbers and solve the problem. I use this strategy often during tutoring sessions with great success. Whatever math operations used to solve the problem with small numbers, do the same using the larger numbers.
Draw or sketch the problem. It gives you a better understanding and generate ideas on how to work the problem. This is especially true for the visual learner.
Substitute answer choices into the problem to determine which answer choice makes it true statement. For example, ¼ N + (4+2) = 12 What is the value of N?
A) 16 B) 20 C) 24 D) 28
Instead of solving for N, start with the middle number or C’s choice and substitute it for N. If the outcome is too large, you know to eliminate that number and anything larger than that number.
*When Answer Choices are Equations
Cover up the choices. Work the problem. Then start with the last answer choice and see if you get the same answer.
*Check Your Work and Check for Reasonableness
Always show your work. Then you can possibly receive partial credit and you have something to check. Partial credit does not apply to standardize tests, but it is still good to show your work. Another way to check is to use another method to work the problem. Of course, you should get the same answer. Afterwards, ask yourself if the answer makes sense.