By: Bill Tessien, Executive Director at A Step Ahead Academic Center

Many students dread taking tests. And most may not even think about the best way to approach a test. However, there are best practices for test taking. To set up your student for success make sure he or she gets a good night’s sleep, eats a good breakfast and has a positive attitude. Then tell him or her to follow these test taking strategies:

  1. Be prepared. Make sure you have everything you need handy to avoid panic – scratch paper, extra pencils, calculator, if allowed. Arrive ten minutes early if possible.
  1. Stay relaxed and confident. Remind yourself that you are going to do your best. If you find yourself panicking, take a few deep breaths. To avoid extra stress, do not talk to overly-anxious students.
  1. Understand how the test is scored. Make sure you know if you will lose points for incorrect answers. Know if it’s better to guess, when you don’t know the answer.
  1. Read directions carefully. To avoid careless errors, make sure you take the time to read instructions.
  1. Manage time. Scan through the test quickly before starting. Look for keywords. If permitted, jot any notes that come to mind. And don’t spend too long on any one question or section.
  1. Answer easy questions first. This strategy will build confidence and allow more time for harder questions. Then answer questions with the most point value. On objective tests, eliminate obvious incorrect answers. On essay tests, create a broad outline and sequence of points.
  1. child-517839_640Read through all options. On multiple choice questions, be sure to read through all answers before making your choice, even if you think you know the right answer. And use the process of elimination to help you choose the correct answer in a multiple-choice question. Start by crossing off the answers that couldn’t be right. Then spend your time focusing on the possible correct choices before selecting your answer.
  1. Look for clues if unsure. If you’re not sure of the answer, look for clues in the wording of the question. Reread difficult questions and circle or underline any important words or phrases that stand out.
  1. Skip questions. If you get stuck on a question, don’t spend too much time on it. Skip the question and go back to it later. The rest of the test could jog your memory or provide clues.
  1. Change answers. If you realize you made a mistake or misread the question, go ahead and change your answer. You may also find information in the test that will correct a previous answer.
  1. Don’t get worried or frustrated. Those tricky problems can knock you off balance. Reread the question to make sure you understand it, and then try to solve it the best way you know how. If you’re still stuck, circle it and move on. You can come back to it later.
  1. Keep track of unanswered questions. If you’re not allowed to write on the test, try making a box at the top of your scratch paper and actually write the number of the question to return to. As you complete those, mark them off. This clears your mind to focus on questions you can better answer. The box helps eliminate page flipping and overlooking items. No scratch paper? Write on the first page of each section of the test booklet, if allowed.
  1. Be neat. Don’t lose points because your number 5 looks like a 6. Be sure that your writing is legible and that you erase your mistakes. For machine-scored tests, fill in the spaces carefully.
  1. Check everything. Resist the urge to leave when you complete the exam. Check to see if you have answered all the questions, and have not made any errors or mismarked any answers – such as putting the right answer in the wrong place or skipping a question. Spend the last remaining minutes going over the hardest problems before you turn in your test.

Just remember: Use your time wisely. Stay focused on the test, even if other students finish early. Don’t rush through the test, and use any extra time to review your answers.

If testing makes you anxious, read our article on reducing test anxiety. To learn study skills, read our article on 9 Effective Ways to Study.

step_ahead_logo_largeA Step Ahead Academic Center is a private tutoring center in Clemmons, servicing pre-kindergarten through college-level students in all core subject areas. Our experienced, caring tutors provide one-on-one instruction designed to meet your child’s learning style. Our goal is to partner with you to help your child learn, grow, and flourish. For more information about our tutorial services, or to schedule a free consultation, please contact Bill Tessien at 336.766.7124 or  We look forward to hearing from you!


*Sponsored by A Step Ahead Academic Center