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Lesson #18 - Taking Tests, Part 1

Grades are largely determined by test scores. It is well known that some people develop skills at taking tests and get better grades because of these skills. The purpose of the next three lessons is to help you develop these test taking skills.

Q: How will test taking skills help me?

Good test taking skills allow you to demonstrate what you have learned more effectively. These skills do not mean you do not need to study and to learn. Test taking skills will help you profit more from your efforts to learn and understand.

Classroom tests

We will begin with some general information about most classroom tests.

First, tests cover only a small portion of what you are expected to learn. By asking about a part of what you are supposed to know, teachers guess that you learned a similar amount about everything. If you can identify what you will be asked on a test, you will be able to focus your study and improve your test scores.

Second, students who study more usually get the best grades. There is no easy or magic path to better grades; it just means, "study more". STUDY SMART is a good plan to follow to get the most out of your study.

Third, practice usually improves test scores. Successful students rehearse answering questions like those that will be on tests. They get these questions from old tests, make them up, work in study groups, or ask tutors to make up questions.

Fourth, the types and purposes of tests change from teacher to teacher and subject to subject. This often means you must study for, prepare for, and take tests differently. One important part of being successful is to find out as much as you can about your tests so you can prepare well.

Finally, you can improve your test taking skills. Like other parts of study, success on tests depends on actions you take. These three lessons on test taking will teach you actions to be successful.

Q: How should you take tests?

You should use the advice we have given throughout STUDY SMART - be active and be systematic. This means you should use actions to prepare for tests, actions while you take tests, and actions after tests. In the rest of these lessons, you will learn how to Prepare, Act, and Test for the most frequently given kinds of tests.


Multiple-choice tests require you to recognize a correct answer from several possibilities. A multiple-choice test will usually have many questions and cover a great deal of material. You should usually spend about 20 to 25 seconds answering each multiple-choice question.

Q: How should you prepare for multiple-choice tests?
  1. Learn the material well. There are no short cuts when you have multiple-choice tests; you must study and review regularly as suggested in STUDY SMART.
  2. Focus your study on main points and topics frequently emphasized in class. These tend to be the source of most multiple-choice questions.
  3. Practice answering sample questions. This practice can be done by using old tests, questions you make up, or questions from study groups. Practice will help you learn and recall information for tests.

Q: What actions should you take during a multiple-choice test?
  1. Read and follow the directions. Ask your teacher about anything you do not understand.
  2. Budget your time and attempt to answer every question. Spend no more than 30 seconds on any question. If you can't answer a question circle it and move on.

    When you have attempted all questions, go back to the ones you have circled and work on them for another 30 seconds. Keep moving from question to question.

  3. Read each question and all the answer choices. Read carefully and literally. Do not look for trick questions or create elaborate reasons to choose an option. Use your knowledge. If you do not understand a question, ask your teacher for help.
  4. Read each question systematically. Read the question first and think of an answer. Then, read each answer choice. Look for the best answer and cross out any choice you know is incorrect.
  5. Review your answers to be sure you marked them correctly.
  6. Always guess if you do not know an answer unless your teacher says there is a correction or penalty for guessing. You have a 20% to 25% chance of being correct just by guessing.
Q: What should you do after the test?

We recommend that you carefully review your test when it is returned. First, see if your score is correct. If not, ask your teacher to check it. Second, look at your errors. Use these to study so you will not make the same mistakes again. Save your tests to use for preparing for large exams that cover the same material.

Q: How can you get started?

Review each of your classes to identify the types of questions on tests, how often tests are given, and the way tests are graded. Form 18.1 will help you organize this activity.

Pick one chapter from each of your textbooks and make up 10 multiple choice questions for each. Make up the question part and at least 4 answer choices for each question.

Lesson #19
Lesson #17

ECC [] ©Copyright 1991, Thomas M. Sherman. Further distribution without the written consent of, Inc. is prohibited.


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