Test-Taking Strategies

Pre-Study Preparation
  • Set a realistic review schedule based on when the test is scheduled. Plan for several sessions of concentrated review.campus swem
  • Read your assigned textbook chapters and prepare study guides.
  • Review your class notes and prepare study guides.
  • Ask for clarification on information that you do not understand from your instructor, classmates, or a tutor.
General Study Techniques
  •  Ask the instructor for hints or an idea of what the test may be like. Specifically, what kind of questions are on the exam and how much the questions are worth.
  • Tackle the more challenging subject first if you have more than one test scheduled on or near the same day.
  • Test yourself on the subject matter by creating a sample test or test questions.
  • Create a review group with students from your class.
  • Use study guides and flash cards.
  • Use old tests, if you have permission to do so from the instructor.
Emergency Approach to Test Preparation

Is time running out to study for your next exam? Don't panic! Do your best not to get in the situation where you must "cram." If you do get into this situation:

Plan First

Planning is critical when there is a lot to do and not enough time. Step back and assess what needs to be done. Then study smarter, not harder. Prioritize chapters and study guides to prepare for the exam. Make a list with deadlines of how to approach those tasks.

Timing Is Everything

Study for 40-45 minutes, summarize, and take a brief 10-minute break. If you have time to pull an all-nighter, try not to make it the night before the exam. You will perform better on the exam if you can think clearly, and thinking requires being well-rested.

Variety Is the Spice of Life

All memory takes place through your senses. It is important to read, recite, visualize, listen, and write. Review class notes; quiz yourself from the text; create a sample test; write sample essays; and review with others.

Pre-test for Success

Use roommates, friends, or classmates to help you with reviewing the material. They can quiz you or hold you accountable for the information that you need to know.

campus lifeBe Psychic

Read your teacher's mind by looking over old tests (if the professor says it is okay to do so). Brainstorm possible exam items with a classmate.

Return to the Text

Rephrase section headings and subheadings into questions. Take time and answer each question. Answer questions and problem sets at the end of each chapter, even when they have not been assigned.


Review your notes in order of importance and write possible exam questions in the margins. Review often!


Start by reciting, so that you can hear your own voice answering the questions. Organize information into concept maps, charts, tables, and pictures.

Think Big

This is not the time to get bogged down with details. Think about the major themes and topics. Integrate information by looking for the purpose, significance, function, and form of the main ideas.

Remaining Minutes Before the Test

Don't try cramming more facts as you walk into the testing room. This will only increase stress and decrease mental clarity. If necessary, practice relaxation techniques. Control your breathing and visualize happy thoughts. At this point you either know it or you don't.

Helpful Hints During the Test
  • Multiple choice - be careful of always, never, and not.
  • Write your memories on the back of the test before you start (stress reliever).
  • Watch the time vs. value ratio (bring watch).
  • Essay exam - write a short outline with key words before you start your essay (key to exams graded on a point system).
  • When checking your work, don't overlook the "easy" questions.

Before finals, sign up for one of our workshops on preparing for finals here