Test Taking

Daily Standup

I’m wrapping up the Learning How To Learn course today and we did a section on test taking. I don’t see myself taking any tests soon so probably not worth it to include with my other notes, but since you never know, including what was covered as a copy/paste job here.

Pre-Test Checklist

The more of these questions that get a ‘yes’ answer, the better.

  • Did you make a serious effort to understand the text? Just hunting for relevant worked-out examples doesn’t count.
  • Did you work with classmates on homework problems or at least check your solutions with others?
  • Did you attempt to outline every homework problem solution before working with classmates?
  • Did you participate actively in homework group discussions, contributing ideas and asking questions?
  • Did you consult with the instructor or teaching assistants when you were having trouble with something?
  • Did you understand all your homework problem solutions when they were handed in?
  • Did you ask in class for explanations of homework problem solutions that weren’t clear to you?
  • If you had a study guide, did you carefully go through it before the test and convince yourself you could do everything on it?
  • Did you attempt to outline lots of problem solutions quickly without spending time on the algebra and calculations?
  • Did you go for the study guide and problems with classmates and quiz one another?
  • If there was a review session before the test, did you attended and asked questions about anything you weren’t sure about?
  • Lastly (and most importantly!), did you get a reasonable night’s sleep before the test?

Hard Start, Jump To Easy

Contrary to popular advice, it’s not a great idea to start with the easy questions as a confidence-builder. Instead, do a quick review of the whole exam, and then start with the hardest questions.

When the hard questions prove very challenging, jump to an easy question and work on that. The key here is that doing so kicks in the diffuse mode of thinking—the brain will keep working on the difficult problem in the background.

Keep jumping back and forth, hard to easy, until all problems have been solved.
Note: it’s a good idea to practice this outside of the test-taking environment beforehand to make sure it’s a method that works for you.

Physiological & Psychological Responses

If stress comes naturally in testing situations, it will be difficult (impossible) to stop the body’s physiological responses to stress.

Suggestion: tell a useful story to yourself about why you’re feeling physical stress for a better result. Turn “this test has me fearful” into “this test has me excited” for a mental shift.

Suggestion: do some breathing exercises, paying full and exclusive attention to your breath. You can also try relaxing your tongue.

Suggestion: make a plan for Plan B; it might take some of the ‘must-succeed’ stress out of a given Plan A situation.