Does the thought of your next test have your stomach in knots? If you’re unprepared, the thought of taking a test can certainly be overwhelming—especially if you put off cramming until the night before.
The study habits you practice now will help you when you get to college and move into your career. Here are eight test-taking strategies to help prepare you for your next exam.
1. Pay Attention
Doing well on tests starts with paying attention in class. It’s hard to retain information when your mind wanders, so begin each lesson by participating actively. Listen intently to your instructors, take notes, and be engaged in activities or discussions. Connect with the information first, and studying will be much easier.
2. Keep a Consistent Study Schedule
Reviewing information right before a test may help you get “in the zone,” but to truly know the details, you must review throughout the semester. Create a study schedule for yourself, and stick to it. One helpful way to do this is to use a planner to build your routine. Your study sessions will be more productive, and you’ll also learn to manage your time more effectively.
3. Choose the Right Study Environment
Staying focused is one of the most important parts of studying. To ensure you’re in study mode, find a study space that works best for you. This means choosing a quiet place and minimizing distractions— that means putting away your phone.
For some, the ideal study environment is alone. Others may work best in a study group. Choose whichever method works best for you. Remember, if you join a study group, focus more on the test material and less on chatting.
4. Find the Right Review Technique
Many techniques can help you retain information for tests. Try a few different strategies, and use the ones that work best for you. Here are some ideas for reviewing test material.
- Make flashcards from your notes and reading material. Quiz yourself, or ask a friend.
- Review past papers and quizzes on the test topic. Note where you made the most mistakes, and pay special attention to those areas while studying.
- Explain the topic to someone else. If you can clearly and accurately describe an issue or concept, you know you’re on the right track!
5. Ask for Help
If you’re confused or frustrated while prepping for a test, that’s perfectly fine. It’s okay to ask for help. Talk to your teacher about the parts you don’t understand, or ask another student in your class.
6. Take a Break
Your brain can only absorb so much knowledge at once. Walking away from studying for a bit can help you retain information. For every hour you study, take fifteen minutes to do something mindless—go for a walk, watch a funny video, or have a brain-boosting snack. Keep in mind that if you’re feeling sluggish or tired, caffeine and energy drinks won’t help. They may wake you up at first, but you’ll crash later.
7. Get Enough Sleep
When you’re busy trying to study for a test, it can be easy to forget that sleep is essential, too. Researchers at UCLA found that regardless of how much a student generally studies each day, if that student sacrifices sleep to learn more than usual, they are more likely to have academic problems the following day. The bottom line is, don’t pull an all-night cramming session—it will do more harm than good.
8. Think Positive
Okay, you’ve prepared as much as possible, used good study habits, reviewed the information, and got enough sleep. Now, all that’s left to do is to take the test! Remember to stay positive as you go into the exam. Think about how much work you’ve done to prepare, picture yourself doing well, and take a deep breath. A little bit of nervousness before a test is natural, but remember—you’ve got this.
Eliminate Exam Anxiety with Effective Test-Taking Strategies
With proven test-taking strategies in your tool kit, you’ll be able to regulate your emotions, improve focus, reduce procrastination, and ultimately perform better on your next exam. Take the time now to adopt these test prep strategies, as they will help you achieve sustained success in college and beyond.
Students who are ambitious and ready to tackle challenges should review our virtual tour and information session page to learn how Paraclete High School’s education and community will set them up for academic success.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 5, 2017, and has been updated for accuracy and current best practices.