Study Skills and Test-taking Strategies

The following skills and strategies can be applied to a number of disciplines, however some skills pertinent to specific courses are highlighted as well.

Preparing for a test

  • žStudying should begin after first class
  • žComplete homework
  • žReview regularly
  • žTake notes in class
  • žIf you do not understand a topic or area, ask!
  • žUse review groups and support instruction (take advantage of tutoring, if offered)
  • žChoose a study group that is a serious as you are about the class and grades
  • žGet enough sleep the night before
  • žEat before the test , this gives you energy
  • žAvoid junk food
  • žArrive early

Taking the test

  • Write your name at the top of the page
  • Read over entire test before starting
  • Jot down anything in the margins that will help
  • Do not rush
  • Look for keywords
  • If you do not understand a question, ask!
  • Keep handwriting neat
  • If unsure of answer, skip it and go to next question, other questions may help with answer
  • Your first instinct is usually right
  • Do not worry about who finishes before you
  • Do not budget 20% of your time on a part that is worth 10% of the points
  • If time allows, look over test before turning it in

Once you receive a test back (after grading)

  • Look over test carefully
  • Make sure you understand mistakes
  • žIf you do not understand why you got a question wrong, ask!
  • žIf test is reviewed, takes notes on questions you missed
  • žUse test to study for exam (if cumulative class)

Study Skills specific to Mathematics and Science

  • Translate problems into English, i.e., “The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the squares of the other two sides.”
  • Perform opposite operations: check by dividing, multiplying
  • Use time drills – practice working problems fast
  • Analyze before you compute – see the problem clearly
  • Make a picture – draw an elaborate, color picture or diagram if you are stuck. Sometimes a visual aid will clear a blocked mind

Test-taking Strategies for Mathematics and Science

  • Estimate first – this is a good way to double check. If your answer is way off it is probably wrong
  • Review formulas the night before a test. Write formulas in the margins as soon as you receive the test
  • Check your work systematically. Ask yourself:
    Did I read the problem correctly?
    Did I use correct equations of formulas?
    Is my arithmetic correct?
    Is my answer in proper form?

Test-taking Strategies for Open Book Tests

  • Spend same amount of time preparing as closed book test
  • Familiarize yourself with the book
  • If allowed write down formulas and key information
  • Focus on main ideas
  • Know where ideas are located in book
  • Learn details later if time allows
  • Highlight important points in book if allowed
  • Use post-it notes, bookmarks, and notes in book if allowed
  • Answer the questions you know first
  • Answer the questions that you need to look up next

Test-taking Strategies for Short Answer Tests

  • Use flashcards to study
  • Anticipate test questions (instructor usually emphasizes material in class)
  • Do not leave an answer blank, make an educated guess
  • Read questions carefully
  • Answer all parts of the question