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Strategies for Test-Taking



  • Do all required reading as assigned (Don't wait until the last minute!)
  • Highlight important information in text.
  • Make study cards of important information.
  • Take time after each lecture to review notes and fill-in gaps.
  • Ask questions about exam. (What types of questions? What information is important? etc.)
  • Get copies of past exams if possible.
  • Know essay test vocabulary ("compare, evaluate, define...")
  • Build a positive "I can do it" attitude.  (More important than you might think!)

Actual Studying for Test:

  • Don't cram!  On going preparation and review makes for better learning and memory.
  • Review each chapter.  Make a question out of each heading.  "Recite" the answer in your own words.  Review study cards using same routine.  Review questions at back of chapter.
  • Review class notes.  Again, make up questions, recite answer.  Review study cards.
  • Don't waste time studying what you already know!

During the Test:

  • RELAX!  Do breathing exercises.
  • Know and follow "PUBCAR" strategy:
    Understand directions
    Budget time
    Clue words
    Answer easy questions first

After the Test:

  • ALWAYS study returned test to see what you did wrong.
  • What test strategy errors did you make?
  • What information was incorrect?
  • Use this knowledge to improve performance on next test.


Understand the Direction Words:

Discuss: Give main points and examples.
Describe: Create a "word picture".
Explain: Tell HOW.  (How it works, how it happened, etc.).

Compare: Show how two things are the SAME and how they are DIFFERENT.
Contrast: Show how they are DIFFERENT.

Evaluate: Present positive and negative aspects.
Justify: Tell WHY something is right or appropriate.

Diagram Make a drawing and label it.
Illustrate: Can mean either to make a drawing OR a long written example.

List: Give key points, one by one.
Outline: Organize a description with main points and sub-headings.

Define: Provide a meaning or synonym.
Summarize: Condense ideas.
Relate: Show a connection or relationship.

Organize Your Answer:

  • You should spend 1/4 of time allotted for question.
  • Analyze the question:  Answer all parts of it.
  • Make an OUTLINE, or list major points to be covered.

Write Complete Answers:

  • Write to uninformed reader.
  • Write more than you think you need to.
  • "Pack in" the information.

Proofread Your Answer:

  • Be sure to save time for this.

If Time Runs Out:

  • Include an outline of what you would have written, or, ask for more time if possible.


Read Directions Carefully.

Answer EASY Questions First.

  • Read each question.  If SURE of answer, answer it.  If NOT sure, put a "?" and go on.
  • Don't waste time thinking!  You'll get clues later.

Avoid Changing Answers.

  • Your first instinct is usually correct.

Guess if Not Sure (unless told not to do so)


  • Assume statements are TRUE unless you can prove otherwise.
  • For a statement to be true, ALL PARTS must be true.
  • ABSOLUTE statements tend to be FALSE  (never, always, everybody, etc.)
  • Watch out for NEGATIVES  (not, un-)

Multiple Choice

  • Read every choice, cross out the "distracters" (The wrong statements).
  • Combine the statement with each choice as if it was a True-False question, if it's FALSE, cross it out.
  • The following tend to be:

More complete or inclusive answers Absolute statements
"All of the above" Jokes, insults, High and low numbers


  • Read directions to determine whether to use a letter more than once.
  • If one list has longer statements, use it as a starting point.
  • CROSS OUT (entirely) each choice as you use it.

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