Write an essay where you tell us what test preparation practices work best for you and why.

While it’s now been several years since I was in the habit of taking tests for school, my work as a freelance journalist has me in a perpetual state of test-preparation. I frequently interview subjects about various topics—neuroscientists studying autism, politicians up for reelection, artists premiering their films—and I prepare for each phone call or in-person meeting in much the same way I would for a test.

How do I do it? I start with a fresh Google Doc, and I gather as much information as I can on my subject. I create an organized list of links to the person or organization’s website, social media profiles, and news articles about them. If the subject is an artist, I watch all episodes, films, or other projects they’ve been involved in. I read through all the articles and links I’ve collected, and create bulleted notes with relevant facts, details, and quotes from each source.

Then I draft up sample questions based on my research, and I practice what I want to say and ask in conversation so I can loosen up and make my source feel comfortable when we finally talk.

I use a similar method whenever I’m asked to give a speech or talk on a panel. When I interview for jobs, I create the same massive document about the company I’m interested in, pulling information from LinkedIn, Twitter, Glassdoor, and elsewhere, about current and former employees, salaries, and other relevant news. I find out as much as I possibly can, as though I’m studying for a test. The more I know, and the more I practice talking points about what I’ve researched, the more at ease I am when it comes time to talk calmly and naturally with a hiring manager.

For me, there is no such thing as over-preparing. I struggle with anxiety, and this method helps me overcome any fear I have going into my real-world tests. The more information I have in my “study guide,” the easier it is for me to improvise and connect the dots when I’m in the field. It’s a simple method, but it’s tried and true.

Abigail from New York
College Junior
Columbia Graduate School of Journalism