Test Taking Strategies
For better or worse, exams are a fact of life for students. Class or standardized tests come in all shapes and sizes. Being a good test taker is yet another factor contributing to student success.
Suggestions for Objective Tests
Objective tests use true/false, multiple choice, and fill in the blank questions. Both instructors and standardized testing agencies tend to like objective tests because they are easier to grade.
Multiple Choice Questions
Sentence Completion Questions
Suggestions for Math and Science Tests
Suggestions for Essay Tests
Here are some suggestions for succeeding on essay tests:
Key Terms Used on Essay Tests
These key terms tell you how to answer essay questions (adapted from Exam Cue Words):
Comment - When you are asked to comment on something, write your personal opinion about the subject. Comments explain, illustrate or criticize.
Compare - Look for qualities or characteristics that resemble each other. Emphasize similarities and differences.
Contrast - Stress the dissimilarities, differences between things, etc.
Criticize - Express your judgment about the merit or truth of the information presented. Provide evidence and/or analysis. Pose questions.
Define - Give concise, clear and authoritative meaning to what you are asked to define.
Describe - Recount, characterize, sketch or relate in sequence or story form.
Diagram - Provide a drawing, chart or plan. As needed, you should label a diagram and give a brief explanation or description.
Discuss - Examine, analyze and discuss the material/problem being presented. Give a complete, detailed answer.
Differentiate or Distinguish - Point out the peculiarities that enable the reader to tell two or more things apart. These things are usually in the same category. Otherwise, if in different categories, the words compare and contrast would be used.
Enumerate - List and give supporting points. Evaluate and appraise the information/problem being presented, stressing both advantages and limitations.
Evaluate - Carefully appraise the problem citing both advantages and limitations. Emphasize and try to analyze causes.
Explain - Clarify and interpret the materials you present. Give reasons for differences of opinion, and try to analyze causes.
Give an account of - Provide a brief narrative that summarizes the subject.
Illustrate - To clarify by giving concrete examples, comparisons or analogies.
Interpret - To give the meaning by using examples and personal understanding.
Justify - To state why you think something is so. Give supporting evidence for your statement or conclusion.
List - To draw out a list of words, sentences or comments. Same as Enumerate.
Outline - To list the main features or general principles of a subject, omitting minor details and emphasizing structure and relationship. In other words, give a general summary.
Prove - To show by argument, evidence, or logic that something is true. However be careful, this word has a very specific meaning in math and physics.
Relate - To show the connection between things. Point out how one causes or is like another.
Review - Make a survey or summary to examine the subject critically.
State - To fully and clearly describe the main points in precise terms. Omit any details or examples.
Summarize - To give a brief, concise description of the main ideas.
Trace - To chronologically follow the progress or history of the subject.
Learning from your Exams
No matter what kind of a score you receive on your exam, you can learn from the results. Determine what material the instructor considers important. Also, note how the instructor thinks about this material. Understand why items were marked as incorrect and what the right responses should have been. If you disagree with an answer or believe you were graded unfairly, talk to your instructor.