Here are some proven strategies that have helped many students improve test scores and prepare for exams more effectively.
Don’t procrastinate. Don’t cram
It seems that some students thrive on last-minute “cramming”. But most experts would agree that cramming is not effective. According to Andrew Fuligni, professor of psychiatry at UCLA, the biggest problem with stuffing is that it causes students to sacrifice sleep time to study. While it is not possible to do well on a test without the required knowledge, sleep is essential for academic success. Sacrificing sleep for 3 or 4 extra hours of study is often counterproductive.
One of the most important test preparation tips we can give you is to give yourself enough time to study. Don’t procrastinate! It is best to start preparing well in advance of test day. Get into the habit of finishing reading assignments on time and frequently reviewing lecture notes. If you are preparing for mid-term or final exams, you will want to organize your time so that you can devote more time to exams that are more important or will be more demanding.
Plan your study time
Take the time to study. Setting aside regular time to study is essential for high test performance. We recommend that you prepare a quarterly calendar, a weekly schedule, and a daily schedule that includes regular study sessions. It is so easy for work and other activities to quickly take precedence over studying, so plan your study time in advance. As you progress through the term, you can change your study schedule to suit your needs, but be sure to plan your study sessions ahead of time – and stick to them.
Watch for clues
Almost all teachers have a methodology for preparing test questions – and they tend to use the same methodology every time they prepare a test. Watch for clues that your teacher might provide about possible test questions and formats. It is also a good idea to participate in test review sessions and ask questions about unclear concepts. Never be ashamed to ask questions.
Ask your teacher to guide you
We even suggest you ask your teacher directly for the best way to study for the test. Many teachers are open to sharing with students suggestions, even secrets, on how best to prepare for their exams. Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher what subjects or topics you will be tested on during the exam, even the types of questions to be seen.
Arrive early on test day
The more you can glean before a test, the better off you will be. I still remember coming to class early on the day of my AP history exam in high school. My teacher, Mr. Farr, was answering a question from another student seeking clarification on the test topic. Whether it was by chance or inadvertently, I will never know, but he said to this student, “Don’t worry about it. Very few tests cover this material.” Knowing this allowed me to focus my remaining 30 minutes of study time on subjects who would be more likely to be on the test.
It is also common for students with difficult concepts or topics to arrive early on test day to ask the teacher or instructor for clarification or additional understanding. This is an excellent opportunity to gain additional understanding and prepare for the test.
Report to class early on test day in case the teacher provides additional advice, instructions, or information.
Review early. Review with a group
Begin a final review of all course notes, reading assignments, and other course materials that will help you prepare a few days before the test. You can do this review on your own or as part of a study group. Working in a study group is a great way to review for an exam. Reviewing for a study group test will allow you to improve your scores, fill in gaps in your understanding, explore complex concepts more fully, maximize your time, cover more material, gain additional knowledge about what might be in progress. the test, and provide you with a support system.
Prepare a preview
Prepare an outline of the main topics and concepts that will be covered in an exam and then use this sheet to study. This will help you memorize the key facts and other information you will be tested on.
Use visual aids
Visual aids, including charts, diagrams and graphs are excellent study aids, especially if you are a visual learner. Organizing information into charts and graphs helps to condense and simplify information and improve recall at the time of the test.
Getting plenty of rest and regular exercise will improve your ability to do well on a test. Eat a nutritious meal before taking a test to be alert and focused. Stay away from junk food. Eating junk food or sugar before a test will cause a rapid decrease in your energy level and can impact your ability to concentrate.
Getting plenty of sleep
It is not wise to stay up all night studying before the day of the test. Get enough sleep at night before a test. Although spending more time preparing seems to improve your score, you never want to take a test tired. Studies show that students who spend more time studying beforehand and less time cramming the night before generally do better on tests.
Stay hydrated and use the bathroom
Be sure to use the bathroom before the test begins. If you have to use the bathroom during the test, it can be time consuming and in many cases students are not allowed to leave a room once the test has started. It can also be extremely uncomfortable and distract your concentration, but it is also important that you stay hydrated. If possible, bring a bottle of water with you to the test.