How to Take a Test

Even if you have spent hours studying and know the material backwards and forwards, you may still have trouble when it comes to actually taking the test. Knowing how to take a test helps you translate your knowledge into success. It can also help you handle any tricks or surprises your teacher included in the test to throw you off.

General Test-Taking Tips

No matter what type of test you are taking or what subject it is in, there are a few general tips you should always follow. They include:

  • Arrive early for the test. If you are late to class, you will be stressed going into your test.
  • Read all of the instructions before answering any questions. If you don’t understand the instructions, ask your teacher for clarification.
  • Focus on the time and loosely determine how much time you can spend on each question.
  • Read every question carefully.
  • Answer the easiest questions first.
  • Skip over any question you don’t know and go back to it later.
  • Make sure you answer every question. If you don’t know the answer, make an educated guess.
  • Go back over the answers on your test before turning it in.

Specific Types of Tests

Sometimes the type of test you are taking determines how you take the test. You do not approach a multiple choice test the same way you approach a test with open-ended questions or an essay test.

Multiple-Choice Tests

When taking a multiple-choice test, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Cover up the answer choices while you read the question. Then try to answer it before you see the answer choices.
  • Underline keywords in the test question, such as not, all, always, never, most, opposite.
  • Immediately cross out any answers you know are incorrect.
  • Eliminate any answers that contain words you’ve never seen before or that don’t make sense. If you have studied, the correct answer will at least look familiar.
  • If “all of the above” is a choice and you see at least two correct answers, choose it.
  • If “none of the above” is a choice and at least one answer seems correct, don’t choose it.
  • Don’t try to find a pattern in the answers.
  • Don’t pick an answer choice just because it is longer or shorter than the rest.
  • If two choices are similar, they are probably not the right answer.
  • If two choices are opposites, one is probably the correct answer.

Essay and Short-Answer Tests

On essay and short-answer tests, you are not given answer choices. You have to use your knowledge to come up with a logical answer to the questions being asked. When taking essay and short-answer tests:

  • Write legibly. If your teacher cannot read what you write, it will probably be marked incorrect.
  • Underline the verbs in the question or essay prompt, such as define, compare, describe, or analyze.
  • Outline your essay before you start writing. You can also write bullet points for short answer questions, then turn them into complete sentences.
  • Include key vocab words in your responses.
  • If you do not know specific dates or numbers, say “approximately” or “around.”
  • Proofread your answers or your essay.

Focus on Success

No matter what type of test you are taking, focus on success. Do not go into a test thinking you are going to fail. If you start to get stressed during the test, ask to get up and get a drink of water or go to the bathroom so you can step away and clear your head. When you get back to the test, you will be ready to knock it out of the park.

Suggested Exercises
  1. Take out an old test and practice taking it again with these tips in mind.
  2. Design a poster to remind your friends how to take tests.
  3. Create a short song or rhyme to help you remember how to take a multiple choice test or an essay test.

Discussion Questions
  1. If you are finding a test difficult, what are a few things you can do to make it easier?
  2. Which strategies do you think will help you most when taking a test?
  3. What are some things you can do if you don’t know the answer to a question?