TEST PREPARATION AND TEST TAKING
There are two main factors that contribute to good test scores. One is Preparation and the other is Test taking strategies.
Test preparation is an ongoing process that needs to be done throughout the semester. Getting off on the right foot at the beginning of the semester is essential!!! Have you done the following?
1. Made and followed a workable time schedule?
2. Learned how to concentrate during classes and study times?
3. Taken effective classroom notes on every lecture and reviewed notes daily?
4. Kept up-to-date on textbook assignments, using selective underlinings and thoughtful margin notes?
5. Taken enough time each week to review and recite from lecture and textbook notes?
If you have, you are probably able to go into your exam today and answer at least 80% of your test questions correctly. If you haven't, now is the time to put this system into action. (Pick up handouts on any areas you feel you need help with.)
A. THE SUMMARY SHEET SYSTEM
The summary sheet system can be used to organize and consolidate your notes into easily
remembered categories and blocks.
The summary sheet system helps you to reduce lecture notes into an organized, manageable amount of material which can be reviewed the night before and again the morning before the exam. Outline or cluster the important ideas and facts in blocks of material under category titles. Use a summary column with key ('clue') words OR use titles and subtitles as key words. If your key words are in the margin, cover the rest of the sheet and recite all material pertaining to that topic. After reciting, expose the notes and check for accuracy. If you use categories, titles and subtitles for key word, place a blank piece of paper over your summary sheet, then draw the blank sheet down to expose the first heading and recite. After reciting, expose the notes under the heading to check for accuracy, and repeat the procedure to the bottom of the page.
Use summary sheets to predict exam questions and practice answering them by means of self-recitation.
B. EXAM INFORMATION
Make sure you have obtained all available test format information from your instructor before beginning your course review, so you can spend recitation time emphasizing the same areas of course content that your instructor does. You should know:
1. Topics the test covers (chapters from texts, units covered in class, etc.).
2. Percentage of questions that will be asked from each topic or unit.
3. Types of questions that will be asked (essay, multiple choice, matching, etc.).
4. Time limits.
5. Weighting given to lecture notes, textbook readings, handouts, lab work, etc.
TEST TAKING STRATEGIES
A. STRATEGIES FOR ANSWERING OBJECTIVE QUESTIONS (Multiple choice, matching, fill-in-the-blank, etc.).
1. Read the directions carefully.
2. Get a running start. Skim the entire exam to become familiar with the types of questions asked. Notice the various weights assigned to specific questions and sections. Quickly develop a time plan.
3. Don't get stuck. If a question begins to take undue time and
thought, mark it, leave it, and return to it later. (Allow time to
reconsider items you are unsure of, and re-read all questions with
4. Read all choices provided in a multiple choice question before deciding on the answer.
B. STRATEGIES FOR ANSWERING ESSAY QUESTIONS
1 . Read directions carefully. Notice whether you must answer all essay questions
or whether you can choose.
2. Read all essay questions before beginning. Select those for which you are best prepared and begin with the easiest, to inspire confidence and promote clear thinking. Avoid unnecessary content overlap by being aware of information that could be better used in answering another question.
3. Jot alongside each question. Quickly note a few key words and phrases alongside each question. List technical terms and names that come to mind. (Keep it clean.)
4. Calculate time to be used in answering each question.
1. Note key instruction words in question. Know the difference between comment,
compare, contrast, etc. (See below.)
2. Make a skeletal outline before beginning to write your answer. (This is not a doodle.) Refer to jottings and organize key words and supporting ideas. It will save time by providing direction and helping avoid repetition. In addition, if you don't have time to finish, you can instruct your teacher to refer to your outline and probably pick up more points.
3. Avoid a flowery Introduction. Answer the question directly and forcefully in the first sentence. Sometimes you can turn the stem of the question into a direct answer (e.g., What are the reasons for ... ? The reasons for ... are ... ).
4. Expand the first sentence according to the skeletal outline. Support generalizations with facts, illustrations, reasons, examples. Use technical terms and references from textbooks and lectures.
5. Summarize and conclude.
6. Re-read all answers and correct any errors in spelling, grammar and sentence structure.
ESSAY TESTS-INTRODUCTORY WORDS
The introductory words in a subjective question are of great importance. Remember to observe the word that is used and do exactly what you are asked. It is estimated that five to ten percent of failures on individual questions are due to ignoring the key word or words. Read the following key words and their definitions.
1. Comments "to write a note or observation intended to explain,
illustrate or criticize,' says the dictionary definition. 'Comment'
perhaps gives you greater freedom than any other introductory word. It
is usually an invitation to express freely your personal opinion on the
subject. E.g., Comment on the desirability of lowering taxes in a
period of relatively high income. (Economics)
2. Compare: to point out both similarities and differences. Students often make the mistake of stating only similarities when they are asked to compare. E.g., Compare the marketing channel for wheat with that for livestock and meats. (Agricultural Economics)
3. Contrast: to point out the differences only. If similarities are included at all, they should usually be no more than mentioned. E.g., Contrast the characteristics of earlier postwar settlements with those following World War II. (History)
4. Criticizes: to judge as a critic. Note that criticism is not necessarily finding fault. Rather, it involves pointing out both good and bad characteristics; it is weighing of evidence. Sometimes testers may use 'criticize' rather loosely to mean 'comment,' or less loosely as a synonym of 'evaluate.' E.g., Criticize Shakespeare's use of the revenge motive in Hamlet. (Literature)
5. Defines: to give the meaning. Giving definition requires you to do two things: put the thing being defined into a general class and then differentiate it from other things in the same class. For example, you may define botany as 'the science which treats types of plants. Here, the class is 'science." The phrase 'which treats types of plants' distinguishes botany from other sciences. Never, never define anything "when" or "where." Would you say a leopard is when a cat has spots? Would you say botany is when people study plants? E.g., Define the relationship between United States and other
American countries as implied by the Monroe Doctrine. (History)
6. Discuss: to present the various sides of and points relating to the subject. A discussion is ordinarily considerably longer than an explanation of the same subject. A discussion of a mathematics theorem, for example, would involve more points than an explanation of it. E.g., Discuss the use of irony in the short stories of Ring Larder. (Literature)
7. Describe: to list the physical characteristics or total
characteristics of anything. This word is often used loosely, though,
to mean "explain," "discuss," or "give an account of." E.g., Describe
in detail the human heart., include a drawing in which you label the
8. Explain: to make more plain. When you are asked to explain something, the examiner wishes to make sure you understand it. It is sometimes wise to write the explanation as though you were giving it to someone who has not taken the course, or to someone who knows the vocabulary but otherwise has no understanding of the point you are explaining.
E.g., Explain the concept of universality as applied to United States membership. (Political science)
9. Evaluate: to express an opinion concerning worth or merit. In mathematics, it means to express numerically.
E.g., Evaluate this statement: "Because of the heavy burden of interest charges caused by financing, public works should be financed strictly on a'pay-as-you-go'basis." (Economics)
10. Summarize: to present in condensed form. When an instructor asks for a summary, he normally expects (or at least hopes) that you have acquired a mass of details from which you will be able to pick the most important.
E.g., Summarize the provisions of the Treaty of Utrecht. (History)