Useful Test-Taking Strategies for College Students


Test taking is something that many college students struggle with. You go to class, study and prepare for the exam, get to exam night...and then blank on what you know and start to panic. Trust me, I've been there. However, test taking does not have to be so daunting. I try to approach tests as a puzzle and mind game that professors put together, and I'll explain more on this mindset later in this post. To learn some helpful test taking strategies that have helped me, keep reading!


A lot of these tips make the assumption that you have been studying for your exam, going to class, and being engaged with the material. Studying is the most important way to make sure you can be successful on a test, so be sure you start their! Also, everyone's tests, professors, and experiences are different. These are just tips I have learned and have used the last two years that I have found to be beneficial for my exams thus far. Do what works for you!


Don't be afraid to jump around questions

Students often think that they have to finish the test in the order it was given to them. Sometimes, this can be the worst thing to do as professors might put the hardest exam question first. If you waste your time struggling on the first question and miss some of the easier ones, you just tanked your score! Take 1 minute at the start of the exam to scan your test for the problems you know how to do, and start there. Then, go back to the harder questions after you completed the easier ones. By doing this, you are able to secure more potential points for your score.


View your test as a puzzle

As long as your professor is a kind person, they shouldn't be trying to test new concepts on exams. This means that you technically already know what content should be tested before even starting the exam. Your goal now is to figure out where the professor hid and included these class concepts within the test. Once you can identify what a specific topic is within a question, I find it much easier to remember what equation, vocabulary, or topic aligns with the given question. Viewing the test as a puzzle with topics that you know scattered around makes test taking less daunting. It gives you confidence in the sense that you know what's going to be on the exam, it's just your goal to put all of the equations and answers together (like a puzzle :))


If you get stuck, move on and come back

This is very similar to the first tip. If you find yourself staring at a problem for more than 30 seconds to a minute and haven't made any progress, move on to another problem. Sometimes all it takes is looking again at the difficult question with fresh eyes. Unless your professor says you have to answer everything right away, there is nothing stopping you from maneuvering around your test.


Before you even get your exam, say some positive affirmations!

I actually learned this tip from one of my seminar classes. If you make yourself have a positive mindset before even taking the exam, you are much more likely to fell more confident and potentially perform better on your exam. As long as you have been attending class, studying, and doing all you can to prepare, you should walk into an exam with more confidence than someone who has not.

These tips should be a guideline for helpful you navigate test-taking. College test taking is extremely different than high school test taking, so it can take some getting used to. However, with detailed prep-work by studying and by taking more exams, you'll start to get a better feel for how you best handle exam nights.

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