Sharpen those Number 2 pencils, dust off the TI-84s, and set your watches…Spring is a time for cleaning, shopping, and tanning for Summer, but at Davidson Tutoring, we know that test taking season is in full bloom. SATs, ACTs, ERBs, APs!!! Yes, Dr. Suess could easily make a poem of those, but our point is that the need to prep for any exam is critical. No matter the test length or type, all tests have a few standard strategies to help you succeed before test day and during that critical hour (or two or three) of the test.
Before the test:
- Know the enemy: Sun Tzu, a military strategist advised, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” Find out as much as you can about the test and know the ins and outs so there will be no surprises.
- Length. How long does the entire exam take?
- What are the directions for each section? Know them early so you don’t waste time on test day learning them.
- Number of questions.
- How many sections will there be?
- How long do you have to answer each question?
- Can you write on the test?
- Is it multiple choice or short answer?
- How is it scored and scaled?
- Are there penalties for guessing?
- Are the questions arranged from easy to hard?
- How comprehensive is the test?
- Are there practice tests you can take?
- How much do you need to review before test day?
- Review strategically, don’t just plow through a full practice book.
- Mental Preparation
- Half of the test depends on you keeping a cool head and focusing during the exam. All of the best laid plans will go haywire if you have a mental breakdown or pass out during the test.
- Keep the test in perspective. You will take the test and walk out of the room and, guess what? The sun will still be rotating the earth and you will still have all of your family and friends. This test shows a small fraction of who you are, so if you blow it, the world will not be over.
- Don’t think about all that could happen if you mess up. Instead, just envision yourself doing well on the test.
- Physical Preparation
- Breathe. Really. It is important to get the oxygen going to your brain.
- Roll your shoulders and move your neck around. It is just an easy way to release tension and refocus.
The day before the test:
- Don’t cram. Anything you try to shove in your brain the day before probably won’t stick, and the stress of cramming isn’t worth the meager amount of information you might gain.
- Lay out your clothes (layer, layer layer!) and pack a small lunch. Put all of your pencils, calculator and test confirmation, directions (print out directions) in a Ziploc baggy by the door.
- Take the night off. Watch a movie, have a simple dinner with the family and go to sleep when you normally do (early bedtime usually means you lay in bed fussing about the test, and late bedtime makes you groggy on test day).
- Set two alarms and sleep tight.
- Eat breakfast. If you skip out on breakfast because of nerves or lateness, your body and your mind will make you pay.
- Leave early. Cranes fall on the road, people leave couches in parking spaces, and all sorts of other crazy things could happen, so be prepared. It’s better to arrive early to the test site.
- On the drive over, listen to some pump-it up music that you like. May we recommend Eye of the Tiger?
- Pee. No kidding. Go before the test starts. What good is all the studying if you spend the last half of the section with your legs crossed cursing the Lemon Diet Pepsi you tanked on the drive over?
During the test:
- Simple Test Strategies
- Answer the easy questions first, then answer the harder ones.
- Circle the answers in your booklet on each page, then transfer them to the bubble sheet when you reach the end of the page.
- Read the question. We cannot tell you how many students blow this one and every multiple choice question has the right answer and the right answer if you read the question wrong.
- Review. If you finish early, resist the urge to saunter down the aisle and show all the other kiddos how smart and fast you are. Look over the questions again. Don’t change your answer unless you know you made an error, but you will catch simple errors this way.
- Use the strategies you practiced. Don’t try something new because the kid next to you is moving faster. Do what you practiced.
- Don’t know a question? Skip it and move on. There’s no point in learning pi during a test. Solve the problems you know and, if you have time, go back to the tough stuff.