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General Test Taking Strategies to Maximize Performance

656-4075 • www.uvm.edu/~learnco

The Learning Cooperative

1. Acquire the proper mind set while preparing for the exam and taking it. Use Positive Self-Talk or positive self-scripts to reduce test anxiety. Listen for Negative Self-Talk and eliminate it. Practice relaxation and anchoring techniques. (See Strategies for Managing Rest Anxiety.) 2. Reduce stress right before the exam. Clear your mind the morning of the exam. Arrive early with several pencils. Select a seat offering minimal disturbance. Use deep breathing techniques. 3. Follow directions precisely! Underline key directional terms. 4. Overview the exam and budget your time. Check the number of questions. Figure approximately how much time should be allowed for each question. Set your pace by marking each point at which you should be one third of the way through and recording the approximate time to reach that point. Leave time at the end for returning to more difficult questions. 5. Study the test questions! Consider each question a puzzle to be solved, assuming there are clues in stems and answer sets to lead you to the correct answer. After scanning the question, read it critically, underlining the key content words and key qualifying words in both the stems and the answer sets. Research from the University of Chicago suggests that the primary reason poor test takers fail to do well is that they misread the questions!!! Underlining prevents this. 6. Don’t read any information or extra meaning into the question. Only what you see is what you have to work with. 7. Always use the process of elimination, crossing out the letter of each incorrect answer. Read every answer in the answer set. 8. Cross out distractors. (A distractor is information in the question that is not needed to answer the question.) 9. Be economical. All answers are equal in value. Don’t waste time on difficult questions. Put a check by the question to which you may wish to return. (If you skip a number, draw a light horizontal line through the number on the answer sheet that can easily be erased when answered later.)

rev Jan 2006


10. Don’t change an answer unless there is a concrete reason for doing so. Avoid change based on gut reaction. You need to have uncovered additional information to correct your first impression.

656-4075 • www.uvm.edu/~learnco

The Learning Cooperative

11. Check alignment of the question in the booklet to the corresponding number on the answer sheet every couple of pages or so. 12. Answer every question. Always guess if you don’t know the answer. Try to limit your choices to two before guessing. Look for clues in the stem and in each answer in the answer set.

General Guidelines for Intelligent Guessing 1. Choose the most complete and/or most inclusive answer. 2. If at least two answers seem correct, choose “all of the above.” (“All of the above” is quite often correct.) 3. “None of the above” is rarely correct. 4. Choose answers which contain the most elements held in common by the majority of answer choices. (Find the answer from which all near-misses were generated.) 5. Stay close to the center of symmetry if all answers form a series, avoiding the extremes. 6. Rely upon logic and common sense when possible if unfamiliar with specific content.

rev Jan 2006

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