We all deal with the grueling task of being tested, whether we are in grade school, in college, on the job site – or dealing with everyday situations (parenting, teaching, etc.).
It seems we face some sort of test in our life every day, whether a paper/pencil exam or making the right moral choices. As a school counselor, I am tasked with assisting students and parents with making the right choices to successfully work their way through school – academically, socially, and emotionally.
Today I want to focus on the academic realm and the tests and exams that all students must go through. I’ll share tools to help them be successful when faced with these assessments.
Some of the points I will share can cross into other facets of tests that we all go through in our personal and professional lives as well.
Be sure to save this handy acrostic blog post full of tips for your next big exam!
R.E.A.D.Y. … S.E.T. … T.E.S.T.
Before the Test
Rest! Making sure to get a good night’s rest should be important every single day for each and every one of us. It is even more crucial the night before a big exam. A rested student can increase his/her ability to recall studied information, be alert during the exam, and feel confident as he/she works through each portion of the exam without the worry of dozing off while reading a passage from a story. The typical elementary-aged student should get between 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night and the high school aged student should attempt to sleep between 8 to 10 hours each night. Get to bed early, people!
Eat a healthy breakfast the morning of your test! It would not be a good idea to skip breakfast before sitting in a room, possibly for multiple hours, testing. Not only will you be distracted by the gnawing ache in your stomach to have a snack ASAP, but your growling stomach may disturb other test takers in the room. On the flip side of this suggestion, it would be a bad idea to eat too much before a big test. Having a pancake eating contest with your family the morning of a test can leave you feeling too full and sluggish during the exam and cause you to not do your best. Also, steer clear of food high in sugar and/or caffeine which may, at the time, give you energy before going into the test, but you may also crash in the middle of the test too. Yikes!
Always think positively! This should just be something we all attempt to do daily no matter what, but sometimes we can allow those negative thoughts to creep their way into our brains. Ultimately, this negativity can make us begin questioning if we prepared enough, how other people will do on the test, if we will score low or fail, and all of these negative thoughts can cause you to lose focus during the test. Attempt to keep your thoughts positive before going in to any assessment. Repeat phrases in your mind, or out loud, that you know will make you feel good. “I’ve got this!” “I’m ready for this!” “I am a rock star!” 🙂
Don’t be late on a test day! Let’s face it, we all have those days where we want to just go crawl back into bed and start our day all over again. We just want to make sure that those days do not coincide with any test days. It is a good plan to set multiple alarm clocks the morning of a test and to make sure you have everything laid out and ready to go when you wake up. Running late the morning of an exam can cause you to skip breakfast, be frazzled, and increase your heart rate. Even worse, it could make you late for the start of the test and you could lose valuable time to complete the exam, miss important instructions, or even not be allowed in the room if the test has already started.
Your personal electronic devices should be left at home! During most tests it is suggested that electronic devices are not even close to your desk, table, or computer station and, in some cases, they are even prohibited from being in the room. You can have your exam invalidated if you are found with an electronic device. It really is best to simply leave these types of items at home, in your backpack (and turned off), or in a locker. Bottom line, leave the extra appendage at home, I promise you will survive for one day without it!
Time to Start Your Test
Spend time listening and/or reading all instructions! When you arrive to take an academic test, you are given instructions, whether verbal or written. It is important to listen carefully or read carefully (even read more than once) to ensure you understand what you are being asked to complete. Do not miss the note about circling your answers instead of underlining or the part about there being a back page to the mid-term exam for your biology course that counts for half of your final semester grade. Eek!
Ease into the test! Some of us get WAY too anxious about starting a test. It seems once we are given the go ahead to get started we take off like we are trying to win first place in a NASCAR race. When it is time to start, take a deep breath, remember all of the instructions provided, and begin slowly. Working too quickly may cause you to miss important notes, hints, etc. that can help you to do better overall on the test. There is no gold star, trophy, or huge celebration for students who complete their academic exams first. Use all of the time allotted to do the best you can on your exam. If you are given one hour to finish, take all 60 minutes!
Take your time reading EVERYTHING! We mentioned that spending time reading instructions is very important. With that being said, it is also important to remember to read any passages included in your exam in a slow and concentrated fashion. We have all been reading something that may not be the most entertaining piece of literature, but we must complete the passage to be able to gain knowledge for any task ahead. During an exam, if you are confronted with a pesky reading passage, make sure to clear your mind for those dreaded few minutes and really focus on what you are reading. Odds are the next set of questions will be about what you read and having to go back and re-read over and over again until you finally figure out the answers can take up valuable time. Focusing on the first read is the name of the game!
In the Heart of Testing Time
Tune out everyone and everything! Typically, this can be called rude, but during a test or exam this is socially acceptable. You may be in a room where another tester did not get a good night’s rest and is snoring in the back, another tester skipped breakfast and their stomach is growling like a grizzly bear, another tester came in late and disrupted everyone, or someone forgot to turn off their cell phone! Your main purpose is to come in and conquer that test and make your own little personal, invisible, impenetrable, bubble where it is just you and your test. YOU GOT THIS!
Evidence to support your answer! This is a useful tip for some types of exams. For example, if it is a mathematics test, you can go back and use any extra time that you have, after answering all questions, to go over your adding/subtracting/multiplying/dividing to ensure you did not make any mistakes within your calculations. For reading comprehension questions, you can go back, time permitting, and re-read passages to ensure you did not miss any vital piece of information to help you figure out the main theme of the passage or character descriptions. The guessing game when it comes to multiple choice questions can work, if you can work down to two answers and are running out of time, use what you have read and the evidence you have to make an educated decision. If at all possible, do not blindly play “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” to try to come up with the answer!
Skip difficult questions! We have all been there, we are cruising along during a test and then we come to a question that throws us for a loop and we have a small, sometimes noticeable, freak out moment. Take a deep breath (I mention remembering to breathe a lot, it may be something to consider) and do not spend too much time in your freak-out mode. If you have no idea where to even go with the question, skip it. Instead, focus on the easier questions you know you can work through. Then, go back and tackle those more difficult questions. They will wait for you!
Time out! Do not forget that once your amazing brain has done all of this tedious work, you deserve a break. Plan something relaxing or fun for you to do after a big test, reward yourself, eat some ice cream, watch a movie, or play games; whatever your favorite pastime may be, plan for some down time. You got READY for your test, you got SET for your test, and then you tackled that TEST. Be proud of yourself!
Post by Kristie Knight, FLVS School Counselor