Lesson Plan: Top Ten Test Taking Strategies

When it comes to test taking, middle and high school students have a lot on the line. They worry…alot. They have concern about how their scores compare to their peers, how they rank with their GPA, how it affects the classes they get into in years to come, its influence on their acceptance into college, what their parents will think, and so much more. What a stressful time for them! The trick is to help students not succumb to all of the pressure by providing them with helpful tips and tools that garner success during testing.



Prepare: Don’t let the test creep up on you – if you know of an upcoming test, mark it on all of your calendars as soon as you’re notified of it. Mark these test dates on a calendar that you see on a daily basis, your student agenda, and your phone calendar. Avoid the cram! Study well in advance by reviewing your material nightly.  Break up your material (notes, activities, labs – anything is fair game) over several weeks or days. Check off the material you feel the most comfortable with and spend the majority of your time on the difficult topics. Have a friend or your parents quiz you. Take your final days before the test to do a general overview and skim over all of your notes. Concentrate on the material by taking it all in and visualize it in your mind. Diagrams, outlines, concept maps are all great visuals that will help you remember everything before the big day!

Take Care: Make sure you have a light dinner, nothing too heavy and rich that may upset your tummy. Go to bed early and get plenty of rest during test days. Wake up a little bit earlier than usual to ensure you can get out the door on time. Eat a healthy breakfast – nothing to sugary or heavy which may cause you to crash mid-test. And NO caffeinated drinks! Dress appropriately  – bring a sweater in case the classroom is too cold, layer in case you get too hot. Store a mint in your pocket and if allowed, eat it when you begin to get sleepy or right before the test- it’s a proven pick me up!


Scan the Test: Get a feel for the types of questions you will have to answer. Are they multiple choice? short answer?  matching? essay? This is helpful so you can allot the appropriate amount of time for each section of the test as some questions will take you longer than others. Also scan the test to find out what material is being covered- this will help you anticipate certain questions. Consider answering questions on similar topics first so you can look for context clues within the questions.  Lastly, scanning quickly will also ensure that you are taking the correct test! Sounds crazy  this is especially helpful for tests that come with several subjects in one booklet.


Take your Time: Students often feel the need to rush through a test just to get it over with or because they want to dry heave their knowledge as quickly as possible onto paper. However, the best bet is to use every minute you have to take your test.  Read questions over carefully. Consider all possible answer choices and think over all options before picking the best one. Use all of the time allotted to check and recheck your work.


Eliminate Wrong Answers: It may sound counter intuitive to seek out wrong answers while looking for the right one, but this tip is perfect for students who feel overwhelmed with too many choices. Scratch or black out answers you are certain are wrong so you may focus on possible correct options. If you can eliminate just two answers you have a 50/50 chance of choosing correctly.


Use Context Clues: You probably have learned how to use clues within a text to determine the meaning of unknown vocabulary terms, but have you thought of using the test itself to help you answer questions you’re unsure of?  Use other questions throughout the test and their answer choices to help you with questions you are stuck on. Sometimes the answers in other questions may not be correct for that particular question but could be a helpful clue for another question.


If You Don’t Know it, Skip it: If you find yourself unable to answer a question, even after eliminating wrong answers and using context clues, skip it. Make a light mark on your test so you can make sure to come back to it. If you still don’t know which answer is best, we’ve got a sneaky trick –  some say that the LONGEST and most DETAILED answer is often the correct one, so if you’re absolutely stuck and need to guess, choose that answer!


Your First Choice is the Best Choice: Trust your gut because your first answer choice for a question is often the BEST answer choice. Students that go back through questions and begin to second guess themselves often find that they chose correctly the first time. So only change answers if you are absolutely certain.

Check your Work: We all make mistakes so save some time at the end of the test to check your work.This is the time to consider tip #8. Use this time to also erase stray marks, make sure bubbles are nice and dark, and most importantly, double check that the bubble you filled in matches the answer you chose in your test booklet! If you skipped a question, make sure to go back and answer it.  Lastly, make sure you answer ALL questions! Don’t leave anything blank as those are going to work against you – guess if you have to and use our tips in #5-7.

Relax: It’s easier said than done, but if you follow the tips above, you shouldn’t feel stressed. Remember to breathe deeply, get yourself comfortable in your seat, and feel confident that you can do this!, Rest assured that you’ve done everything possible to be prepared and you’re going to do your very best!

Happy teaching!

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