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General Test-Taking Strategies

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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Terms You'll Need to Understand

  • Planning
  • Preparation
  • Focus
  • Test Anxiety

Concepts/Techniques You'll Need to Master

  • Parts to the test-taking strategy
  • Getting a good night's sleep
  • Knowing your route to the test center
  • Arriving early to the test center
  • Listening to and reading instructions carefully
  • Marking your answers correctly
  • Avoiding cheating (or the appearance of cheating)
  • Paying attention and staying focused
  • Working as quickly and accurately as possible
  • Checking your answers
  • Avoiding test anxiety

No matter how seasoned of a test taker you happen to be, there is no getting around the fact that even the best "cool and collected" test takers can get nervous. Actually, this can be to your advantage because (sometimes) a little case of the nerves can keep you alert and at the top of your test-taking game. On the other hand, if you get too inside your own head (so to speak), it can distract from your ability to do your best, and all of the preparation and studying you have done can go out the window.

The good news is that you can keep your anxiety in check. The fact that you are reading this book, and taking the time to prepare is going to really help you, perhaps more than you are aware: The bottom line is that if you take the time to prepare, you'll be...well...prepared and far less likely to let your nerves get the better of you.

This chapter gives you not only some practical tips on how to beat test anxiety, but also good advice on general test-taking strategies. It's our bet that as you read this chapter, you'll find yourself saying, "Gee, I never considered that as a test-taking tip!" (for example, knowing the route you are going to take to the testing center). It's also our bet you'll say to yourself, "Well, yeah, now that they mention it, that is a really good point!" So we'll give you some good test-taking pointers, and you can in turn use this chapter as you read further into the book to calm any nagging fears or concerns that you aren't a good test-taker. Indeed, within every person lies a great test-taker just waiting to come out. This chapter can put you in touch with that person!

A General Test-Taking Strategy

Some people think that the actual test day is the only real part of the test-taking process. In reality, of course (as you probably already know because you are reading this book) it is a two-step process, with preparation being just as important as actually taking the test.

But what does "test preparation" really entail? The obvious is understanding the exam questions and taking practice exams. But there are also some other very important elements to test preparation that go far beyond the work you'll do with the practice exercises that compose most of this book.

What are these elements? They vary from person to person, but generally speaking, we can call them the "night before the test" preparations, and they consist of such things as getting a good night's sleep and being sure you have your route mapped out to the testing center (nothing like getting lost the morning of the exam to really get those nerves hopping)! We're going to talk quite a bit about these special preparations in this chapter, through the introduction of your fictitious (but realistic) "test-taking partner," Bill Roberts.

The second component of the test-taking process is, of course, taking the test. You'll have done lots of great preparation heading into the test, but you aren't going to be able to refer to your notes (or this book, for that matter). That said, there are several tips and tricks you can use to keep your mind focused, and to help you achieve the highest score. Some of these are obvious (for example, don't cheat), whereas some might seem obvious on the surface (for example, listen to and read directions carefully), but they are in fact more complicated than they might otherwise seem. We take a look at all of these elements in this chapter as well.

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