TIPS ON TEST TAKING
Richard M. Felder
North Carolina State University
James E. Stice
University of Texas at Austin
- Study in small groups
- Make sure your study group contains only students who are serious
about studying. At least some of
them should be at your level of ability or better.
- Go over as many different problems as you can (like old homework
problems, unassigned problems in the course text, and problems on old exams).
Set up the solutions, but don't crunch numbers. Don't leave a problem until
you're convinced you could do it by yourself.
- Brainstorm possible things you could be asked and answers you might
- Leave the beer in the refrigerator until you're done studying.
- Make up a one-page summary sheet of the key ideas, equations, procedures, etc., that you might need to know on the test. If the test is closed-book, know what's on the sheet. If it's open-book, bring the sheet with you.
- Don't stay up all night studying. Try to get a reasonable amount of
sleep the night before the exam. If that's not possible, try to get a nap
before the exam, or at least a short rest.
- Set up a backup system for your alarm clock. Set a second
alarm, or arrange for a wake-up call from a friend.
- Arrange for backup transportation to campus.
- Bring everything you need to the exam:
- textbook/lecture notes if the exam is open book
- paper and several pencils with erasers
- calculator with extra batteries
- allowed handbooks and tables (such as steam tables)
- allowed class handouts
- summary sheet (if allowed)
II. TAKING THE TEST
- Read over the whole exam before beginning to write
- Choose the problem or question that seems easiest to you and do it
first. Continue to do the problems in order of increasing difficulty.
- STAY IN MOTION!!! Work on a problem until you get stuck. Think
about it for a minute or two, and if nothing comes to you then drop it and go
on to another problem. Don't spend 30 minutes sweating out an additional five
points on a problem and run out of time, leaving a 40-point problem
You may later have time to return to the first one and you're much more likely
to think of how to do it then.
- Show your work. Give enough detail so that both you and the grader
can tell what you're trying to do. Even if you can do the problem in your
head, don't. If you're wrong, you get a zero; if you're right, you could
be suspected of cheating.
- Watch out for significant figures. Some instructors don't
appreciate answers like 23.694028, even if that's what the calculator says.
- Think partial credit. Try to put something down for each part of
every problem/question. If you don't have time to solve a problem completely,
tell what you'd do if you had more time.
- Keep your work legible. If an instructor can't read what you wrote,
you aren't likely to get full credit and you may not get any.
- If you don't understand a question, ask the instructor/proctor for
help. You might get some, and it never hurts to try.
- Don't panic. If you feel yourself sweating or hyperventilating, put
down your pencil, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and consciously
relax any muscles that you're clenching (jaw, neck, stomach). When you're
calmer, go back to work.
- If you have time at the end, check your solutions. Did you answer
each part of every question? Did you answer the question(s) asked? Do your
answers look reasonable? Do your calculations check out? (Save this one for
- Hand in your paper when time is called. Nothing makes an
instructor/proctor more homicidal than having to wrestle you to the floor to
get your paper.