How To Take A Standardized Test

Originally published on ResolutionsOrganizing.com on February 19, 2019. Written by Dawn Link. Editing and Additional Content provided by Cristina M. Miller, CP APMP, ReadActively.org.

An essential component of passing any sort of exam, from a high school or college mid-term to the SAT, ACT, GRE, or GMAT is knowing how to take a test. Use these tips to prepare yourself for taking exams and you will succeed, no matter the test. Here’s how to take a standardized test

  • Study Daily– Learning is a gradual process, not an instantaneous one. You cannot ignore a textbook all semester and learn everything you need to know to pass the final two weeks before semester’s end. If you want to succeed you need to start studying way before the actual exam date. Start by studying for at least an hour a day. Don’t wait till the last minute to cram for your exam!
  • Mix It Up– Besides just reading, try another way to learn. Are there online instructional videos you can watch? Take a practice test. Flash cards work for any sort of material and are easy to make. The important thing is to change it up, so your brain is learning in different, but important ways.
  • Know The Rules– How is your test scored? How much time do you have to take the exam? Is it a digital or pen and paper exam? Are you penalized for incorrect answers? Can you go back and change your answer or skip a question and go back to it? Ask and get the answers to these questions in advance of the exam. This information will be helpful and less stressful to you if you know in advance how to take the exam.
  • Get A Good Night’s Rest– This is the most important component to setting yourself up for success. Don’t stay up the night before cramming for the test. Get a good night’s sleep. Set at least 2 alarms so you don’t oversleep and miss or be late for the exam!
  • Don’t Skip Breakfast– Make sure you eat a good breakfast. Don’t skip it! Eat protein and avoid sugar so you don’t crash mid exam. Drink plenty of water so that you are well hydrated and don’t get thirsty during the exam.
  • Gather What You Need– Make sure you have all the items you need to take the exam. Do you need to bring a calculator, your own pencils? Arrive early. Scope out the room.
  • Eliminate What You Don’t– Use the bathroom prior to exam time. Leave the cellphone in the car or at home, or if you must have it with you in the exam room, turn it not just to silent, but off entirely. Even a silent phone will still vibrate, creating an unnecessary distraction.
  • Do What You Know First– If you can, read the entire test. Then go back and answer all of the questions you immediately know the answers to. Answer the rest of the questions in the order of difficulty, doing the slightly difficult questions after you answer the easiest ones and saving the most difficult questions to answer last. This will maximize your time and ensure you the best possible score.
  • Review– IF time permits, do take the time to review your answers, especially, if you were unsure of a question but were at first concerned about timing. It’s ok to change an answer. Trust that you put in the time to study and are in control and know your stuff.
  • Don’t Panic– Most importantly, try to stay calm. If you feel yourself starting to panic, take deep, long breaths. Don’t be hard on yourself if a lot of the room has finished. Take whatever allotted time you need to complete the exam. Everyone takes a test differently. Trust in yourself that you have prepared for this exam and will the best of your abilities.

The hardest part about taking a test is often not the test content, but overcoming our own fear of taking the exam. By following these tips, you can increase your self-confidence on test day, allowing you to ultimately ace even the most difficult test. It’s important to remember, that while you can always retake a class, an exam, or a standardized test such as the SAT, you cannot take back the hours of agony you spent stressing out over taking the exam. Don’t spend time doing that.