The biggest trick to do well on an exam is to PREPARE. Spacing out your studying, doing sample problems, and meeting with study groups/a tutor/the professor will invariably set you up for success. Procrastinating or trying to get the best grade with least effort is a surefire way to lower your chances at high marks. 
Check our some of our test/exam suggestions below.

  • Studying Prep

    • Is the test mostly facts and memorization?
        1. 8-Column Study: Fold a piece of paper in half. Fold it in half again in the same direction. Unfold the paper. You now have four "columns" using the crease lines. Copy a list of terms in the first column and try to write the definitions on the second column. Fold back the first column (that has the first list of terms) and try to write the terms on the third column. Keep repeating until the front and back of the paper is filled.
          Flashcards: Write a term or fact on one side of an index card and the definition on the opposite side. Repeat for 20 terms/facts. Shuffle the deck and attempt to identify the cards. Continue identifying cards until you can make it through the deck twice without making a mistake or not knowing the answer. Shuffle the desk. Repeat until you can make it through the deck twice without making a mistake or not knowing the answer.
          Rewriting: Draw the diagram or series of facts. Redraw the diagram or series of facts without looking at the original to the best of your ability. Repeat until you can redraw the diagram or series of facts without needing to refer to the original.
    • Is the best mostly showing relationships or conceptual questions?
        1. Concept Map: Identify the central concept or theme and put it in a box in the center of the paper. Draw branches for pieces of evidence or details about the concept. Draw cloud bubbles off of the evidence/details for important terms, dates, or processes. After sketching all the details around a theme, pick the most important details and summarize into an easy-to-remember conclusion in one to three sentences.
          Flowchart: Identify the root cause or starting point of a concept or process. Draw branching paths to show a series of effects or timeline of events. Draw little pictures at each important event or point along the flowchart. After sketching the entire process or series of events, identify the most important influences along the flowchart and redraw as a concept map (see above).
  • Test-Taking Prep

    • Learn how the test is given. How much time will you have? Where is it taking place and do you know how to get there? Is the space usually warm, cold, or do you not know? Is it going to be essays, multiple choice, or a presentation? Will you be allowed to bring your book, notes, or a cheat sheet?
    • Get your body ready. Sleep at least 6 hours before the test. Eat a meal. Drink water and bring a bottle of water if you are allowed. Dress comfortably.
    • Plan to arrive early: Give yourself an extra 15 minutes to get to the quiz or exam. An unexpected delay has a much harder impact on test day than any other day. Get comfortable and get acclimated to the testing room. Use the bathroom even if you don't think you need to go. Check your tools like pencil, pen, calculator, etc to make sure they are working correctly.
    • Don't cram beforehand. Studying 15-30 minutes before an exam will not effectively retain any information and can cause you to stress in unproductive ways. Put away the book and review what you remember in your head/study aids.
    • Ensure you have accommodations: If you have a documented disability or accommodation, ensure that the instructor knows about it prior to the exam. If you have any issues or believe you might need an accommodation, please visit the Office of Disability Services.

  • Taking the Test

    • Multiple choice: Identify the question. 
      1. One right answer: If there is only one answer (a fact or concrete answer), try to disprove the other answer choices. Try to draw a diagram or flowchart from your studying efforts and place the answer into the diagram. Identify the effect if you assume an answer choice is true and disprove answers that have incorrect effects.
      2. Best answer from a list: Find supporting evidence for each answer choice. The best answer will have the strongest or most important evidence. Skim the rest of the exam to identify other evidence sources. Jot down important facts or rewrite a concept map from your studying efforts to create an in-exam cheat sheet.
    • Essay/Short Response: Sketch your answer before writing.
      1. Underline the question: Underline the most important question in the essay prompt and identify key details to include. Circle action words like "Explain", "Compare", and "Show".
      2. Write key terms or answers to the question prompt: Before writing the essay or short response, organize your thoughts and details you believe best answer the question prompt. Lead with the strongest evidence.
      3. Write and proofread the essay/response: Follow your outline. Depending on the format, you may not need an introduction or concluding paragraph. Break key points into paragraphs. Reread the question prompt after writing and identify where you answer each action word in the writing.

  • Test-Taking Anxiety

    Everyone gets anxiety. Not everyone knows how to manage anxiety. Here are some in-depth guides around handling test-taking anxiety:

    Utah State's P.A.S.S. Model

    Test-Anxiety Management Techniques from UT Dallas

    What Is and What Is Not Test Anxiety from Minnesota State at Mankato