Many students aren’t sure where to start when it comes to being prepared for an exam. Preparing for an exam is just as important as taking the exam itself. No matter what exam you’ll be taking, it’s always important to be prepared and to show up at exam time prepared and ready to go.
We’ve contacted 20 testing experts who have shared with us their favorite testing tips.
#1 Nicole Truitt, Student Enrichment Coordinator
Delaware Technical Community College
Students often struggle with essay questions, and my best suggestion is to jot down a quick, sketchy outline before starting the essay – it doesn’t have to be neat or fancy, but it should include every scrap of relevant information a student can think of and it should be put into some kind of order (topic sentence, first detail/example, second detail/example, etc., conclusion). This allows students to review the information for completion and coherence, it’s easier to add missing information or trim anything irrelevant before the essay is in progress, and it helps students structure their thoughts and ideas so that their essay is clear and organized.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it’s less intimidating for some students to bullet-point their ideas. An essay question can paralyze a student with doubts and worries about how much they know and whether they’ll be able to communicate it clearly. By ignoring the essay component at first, students are able to get the information down on paper without being overwhelmed by the idea of writing – and then seeing their notes and realizing that they do know the material can empower them and give them the confidence they need to string their ideas together into an essay.
#2 Stephanie Wilkins, Testing Center Supervisor
Germanna Community College
Read the chapters assigned and note any important information given by the instructor.
Get a good nights sleep, study the materials assigned in small intervals and take frequent relaxing deep breaths. When taking an exam in a Testing Center be early and prepared for the exam.
Students often wait until the last minute to attempt to study for their exam. Students often get better grades when they start preparing for an exam a few days before hand; whereas, they often rewrite notes or review important highlighted information.
#3 Buffy Ruffin, Coordinator of the Learning Assistance Center
Tidewater Community College-Chesapeake
Prepare! Find out as much information as you can about the test. Knowing the format, number and types of questions can help a student mentally if you know what to expect and have prepared for it.
#4 Lori Chavez, Tutorials Center Coordinator/Instructor
Answer the questions you know first. It builds confidence. Go back to the ones you aren’t sure of. Always recheck your work. Take your time.
#5 Margaret Landsparger, Testing Center Coordinator
We tell our candidates to relax, take a deep breath and try to be calm. Stressing about the situation or other things in their lives needs to be pushed out of their minds until after the exam.
#6 Linda Bridwell, Office Coordinator
Scottsdale Community College
Our best advice is for students to prepare for testing. Working with available study materials, being properly rested, and eating properly adds greatly to the testing experience.
#7 Jenny Schuhwerck, Testing Coordinator
Inver Hills Community College
I would say the advice I give to students the most is to ensure that they are prepared when they take their exams; make sure they have studied, have all the materials they are allowed for the exam as well as ensuring they have any I.D.s or fees that they need when they come in to test. The issue we run across the most are students who are not prepared for their exams in one way or another.
#8 Stephanie Rusden, Office Coordinator II Tempe Testing
Rio Salado College
BE PREPARED! Call your testing center or email them ahead of your desired test date and ask what is needed ex: a form of ID, testing fee, appointment, ask for the hours, what materials are allowed etc… Prepare yourself before you go in to test.
We have scratch paper we give to the students, pencils, and calculators if they are allowed per instructor’s request. We also have lockers free of charge for students to put items away that are not allowed inside the room and we give students ear plugs that help a lot if you get distracted easily by other people typing, coughing etc…
#9 Testing Staff
Front Range Community College-Boulder County Campus
Study, study, study.
#10 Katie Watson, Testing Coordinator
University of South Carolina
My best advice for students taking tests other than studying would be preparing for the logistics of that day. It is important to know what time you need to arrive at the testing center, the parking situation for your location, the rules of the testing center and any general questions you may have by either calling or browsing the website at least a day before the exam.
#11 Wendy Bredensteiner, Testing Center Associate
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Just as a personal opinion, every test should begin with “This is not a race. You do not receive extra points for finishing first. Read everything carefully and double check your work.” We have a professor who puts that at the top of every exam. I wish they all did.
#12 Betsy Reese, Testing Coordinator
Metropolitan Community College – Penn Valley
Know where the test is being held and where you are going to park.
Have the required photo ID(s).
Go to the bathroom before the test, especially if you have been up for hours studying and drinking coffee. Most tests do not allow bathroom breaks. Do not ask for a bathroom break 20 minutes into the test. After all, you are not in kindergarten anymore.
Leave most of your belongings in the car. If you bring your cell phone, you will need to turn it off and leave it in a locker. No, no testing center staff can answer the phone for you if work or your child’s daycare calls.
Be sure you know if any testing aids are allowed: a 3×5 card with notes, your notes but not your textbook, a periodic table, etc. Particular calculators may not be allowed. Make sure yours is an approved model.
Pay attention to the verbal instructions you are given by the testing center staff. They have significant experience administering tests and they share the things you need to know.
Yes, the proctors are monitoring you as you test.
The test proctors are your advocates, especially if there are problems with the online test site, password, timing, etc. They will contact the instructor or company on your behalf. They are willing to assist you, but the technical problems are not their fault.
#13 Kimberly Heft, Testing Coordinator
Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods
Well besides being properly prepared for the test I would say, arrive early or allow yourself plenty of time to minimize stress, if it is a BB test make sure you know your log-in. You would be amazed how many people get here and have to look it up. Know the name of your instructor if it is an online class and be sure to bring a valid photo ID so we can verify your identification.
#14 Becky Knickmeier, Library & Learning Services Specialist
Mid Michigan Community College
Preparation for your first test should begin after the first day of class; this includes studying, completing homework assignments and reviewing study materials on a regular basis.
Budget your time, make sure you have sufficient time to study so that you are well-prepared for the test.
Pay attention to hints that the instructor may give about the test. Take careful notes and ask questions about items you may be confused about.
Ask the instructor to specify the areas that will be emphasized on the test.
Make sure you go to the class right before the test; it’s another prime time for the instructor to give out more hints or the format of the test.
Go over any material from practice tests, sample problems, review material, the textbook, class notes… Use your text book’s website if they have one.
Eat before a test; having food in your stomach will give you energy and help you focus, but avoid heavy foods which can make you groggy.
Don’t try to pull an all-nighter; get at least 3 hours of sleep before the test.
Put the main ideas/information/formulas onto a sheet that can be quickly reviewed many times. This makes it easier to retain the key concepts that will be on the test.
Try to show up at least 5 minutes before the test will start.
Set your alarm and have a backup alarm set as well.
Go to the bathroom before walking into the exam room; you don’t want to waste any time worrying about your bodily needs during the test.
#15 Dean Fritzemeier, Tutoring Coordinator
Muskegon Community Center
The best advice for students in test preparation is to prepare early. This means read and practice throughout the unit of study. Furthermore, it means to prepare for class, review after class and study in small chunks of time often, instead of big chunks right before the test.
#16 Clarissa T. Chestnut, Test Proctor
Central Carolina Technical College
What I tell my students and have been taught in school is to do a brain spill. For content and material that is high volume, I tell them as soon as you get your test paper or have access to an online test then to do a brain spill. Brain-spilling is everything you think you may need during the test that is not easily retainable. E.g: Spanish conjugation charts, formulas, an acronym for a process or different words.
#17 Tina Totten, ARC Director
North Central Missouri College
I advise our students to prepare for tests from the first day of class by employing good listening, reading, note-taking, and studying techniques. Since I’m the Director of the Academic Resource Center, I tell students that the ARC is a good place to start.
#18 Sandra Brintnall, Testing Specialist
Santa Fe Community College
Basically, what we tell students is to do some prep work, go to sources that they can take practice tests because it will familiarize them with test structure, wording, pacing their answers, etc.
#19 Caitlin Swisher, Testing & Tutoring Assistant Coordinator
Do not procrastinate. The sooner you begin studying, the sooner you can identify areas you need extra help in.
#20 Doug Bull, Director, ELO Testing Centers
Iowa State University
We deal strictly in academic exams so I encourage students to study their notes, text books, and supplementary materials like lecture videos to prepare for their exams.
Top 20 Test Taking Tips