If you want to be successful on a test, the most important thing you can do is study the subject well, get enough rest the night before, and stay calm as much as you can while taking the test. However, no matter how hard you study, there will always be certain questions that are more difficult than others. Even if you are not totally sure of your answer, there are strategies you can use to improve your chances of choosing correctly.
Method 1 of 5: Answer Short Questions
Step 1. Circle the keywords in the question
This will help you focus on the main idea that the teacher wants you to develop. Look up vocabulary words you recently learned in class and any study terms you recognize.
- Some teachers like to reuse the test sheets for other classes, especially if they answer based on the answer template. In this case, use a pencil.
- You don't need to circle the words. If you want, you can underline them.
Step 2. Answer the easy questions first
Quickly review the test and fill in the blanks to which you know the answer with certainty. This will give you confidence and "prime" your brain. Unconsciously, you will work on the responses that you have skipped. Then go back and answer the tough questions.
Another reason to answer easy questions in the first place is to get them out of the way. This way, if your time is short, you will have at least answered a few questions
Step 3. Provide more than one answer if you are not sure
If you have more than one idea and can't really decide which one is correct, write both. Your teacher could give you partial credit if one of them is correct.
This is not always the case, especially if it is a multiple choice question or answer template
Step 4. Answer from your teacher's perspective
If you can't decide between two possible answers to a question, think from your teacher's point of view. What is the most likely he wants you to say? What kinds of things have you emphasized most in class?
- Imagine the teacher reviewing the test results in class later. Imagine what it would mark as an answer.
- Imagine that you are the one who writes the exam. What kind of answers would you put as correct and incorrect? This is useful for multiple choice questions.
Step 5. Use margins
If you have difficulty identifying the answer to a question or have several possibilities in mind, use the margins (or the back) of the exam to develop it. Write down everything that comes up in your mind and see if it refreshes your memory.
Some teachers allow you to bring a scratch paper to the test. If your teacher allows it, take advantage of it
Step 6. Paraphrase the question
Summarize the question in your own words to see if this makes the teacher's point clearer. Be careful not to change the question by paraphrasing it.
Step 7. Prepare and study with flashcards
If you know that your teacher will give you a test with short questions, prepare in advance. To do this, take note of the key ideas or terms that you find in the textbook or reading materials. Always include the key points that your teacher makes in his classes, especially those that are repeated two or more times.
- Write the keyword on the front of the card and a short description on the back.
- You can also write the key terms on the left side of a sheet of paper and the definitions on the right side. Fold the paper to see only the definitions. Then try to remember the terms.
Step 8. Write as much as you can remember on the back of the test
Read the test questions briefly. Then, if you can write on the back of the test sheet or on a cover page, list the information that you think might be helpful during the test.
- Write all the terms on your cards that you have seen frequently. Write them down first so you don't "get stuck" with them when they appear on the test.
- If you have memorized lists or collections of terms through mnemonic techniques, write them down quickly.
- If you can't use the periodic table during a chemistry test, memorize it and write it down before taking the test. You can then refer to it during the exam.
- You should always make sure that your teacher agrees with this method and that it is not obvious that you have brought the paper with you to class. Otherwise, it may appear that you are cheating.
Method 2 of 5: Answer Essay Questions
Step 1. Listen to all the instructions
Make sure to pay attention when your teacher gives last minute instructions, in case something is different about this test than the rest you have taken. Also, take note of the time you have to complete the test.
Step 2. Read the questions and ask for clarification
As the teacher turns in the tests, quickly read the questions to make sure everything makes sense to you. If there is something that is not clear, ask your teacher to better explain what you are looking for with that question.
Your teacher may not see you raise your hand during a test. In this case, you can go over and ask him
Step 3. Calculate the time allowed for each question
If there are multiple essay questions on the test, count them and divide this number by the total number of minutes set for the test. This way, you will know approximately how long you have to complete each question.
For example, if you have an hour to answer three essay questions, spend 15-20 minutes on each one
Step 4. Avoid stalling
If you find yourself getting stuck with a question or spending too much time providing a very detailed answer, move on to the next question. Take it back at the end of the exam to complete whatever is missing.
- If you spend a lot of time with one question, you may run out of time to answer the rest.
- Sometimes if you skip a question and continue working through the rest of the test, you will jog your memory and remember the answer to the previous question.
Step 5. Paraphrase the question to begin the answer
To develop a hypothesis or focal point for your answer, paraphrase the question as a statement. This way, you will have a good starting point for your rehearsal.
Include keywords from the question in your hypothesis or thesis statement
Step 6. Plan your answer before you begin
Summarize the main points you want to cover before you start writing. Include the main terms, dates, names (anything you can remember) when writing your notes. Then, include only the most relevant data when writing your answer.
Use a piece of paper or the back of the paper, if you need more space
Step 7. Keep the answer simple and concise
Stay on topic and use clear words to express your ideas. Avoid a long introduction or recap passages.
- Include the most important points first. Do not save them for the conclusion of the essay.
- Keep in mind that providing a very long answer can cause you to write too much. In fact, it can take the focus off the correct answer, causing you to make a mistake or lose points.
Step 8. Focus on the parts with which you are most familiar
Spend most of your time covering the ideas with which you are most familiar and which you remember the most details about. Answer the question completely, but dedicate most of your essay answer to the part of the question that you understand best.
Method 3 of 5: Answer Multiple Choice Questions
Step 1. Develop your own idea before reading the options
Try to answer the question in your own words if you can. Then try to find the answer that most closely matches your idea.
- If you focus first on determining what the answer is, before looking at the options provided, you will need to remember the text or class where you first heard this information.
- This process helps improve concentration and exercise memory.
Step 2. Answer the question in order, but skip any that you get stuck with
Answers on a test often follow the same order that you have learned the material in class, or in the same order that it is presented in the textbook. Answering them in order will give you clues as to what the correct answer might be. However, don't waste a lot of time with a difficult question and get frustrated, as this could affect your performance on the rest of the exam.
- If you really get stuck with a question, make your best guess and put a question mark next to it. If you finish the exam with time to spare, go back and reconsider the ones you marked.
- If you don't want to guess, skip the question and put a check next to it to go back to it if you have time at the end of the test.
Step 3. Find out if you would be penalized for guessing
On most exams, you will not be penalized for guessing. It is better to risk getting the correct answer right, and possibly wrong, than to leave it completely blank and undoubtedly be wrong. However, keep in mind that there are certain tests where you will be penalized for guessing. If you have questions, talk to your teacher or exam coordinator before starting the exam.
- For example, the SAT exam penalizes you for guessing. You will be deducted 1/4 point for each incorrect answer; you will not be penalized for leaving answers blank.
- The ACT test does not have penalties for guessing. It's best to answer all the questions, if you can, in the hope that some of your assumptions are correct.
- The GRE test does not penalize wrong answers. Skip the answers when you're stuck, but try to pick them up if you can. It is best to answer every question you can within the time allowed.
Step 4. Don't always limit yourself to your first choice
Many people say that the first guess on a test is usually correct, so the answer should never be changed. However, recent studies have shown that this is not the case. You are as or more likely to be correct if you change an answer that you are not sure of. Therefore, do not stress about changing your answer because it was not your first choice. If you change your mind, modify your answer.
- Empirical evidence from data collected from people who have taken the GRE test shows that those who changed some of their answers tended to score higher than those who always stuck to their first choice.
- Test takers in the GRE study changed their answers from incorrect to correct more frequently, leading to a higher score.
Step 5. Ask yourself if the answer is complete
When evaluating an answer that you are not sure is correct, ask yourself if it answers the question completely.
- If it is only partially true or applies to part of the question, it is probably not the one you should choose.
- If it's only true under certain conditions, it's probably not correct. If a question refers to a specific behavior of an elephant, but the answer would only be correct if the elegant one was in captivity, it does not exactly answer the question.
- If the answer is incomplete or not correct under all circumstances, remove that option. This will leave you with fewer options to choose from, which will increase the chances that you will select the correct answer.
- If you find an answer that seems "almost" complete, see if there is another option that is very similar to it, but is complete. Perhaps this is the correct option.
Step 6. Think twice if you think this is a trick question
Teachers rarely put leading questions on their tests. If you think the question might be leading, read it again carefully. Perhaps you have misunderstood the point of the question or made it more complicated than it really is.
- If there is a simple answer that solves the question, it is probably the correct option. For example, if the question is "What is 0 times 0?", Don't over-analyze it. This is not a trick question; the answer is 0.
- If a history test says "What was the name of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s father?", It is not a scam. The answer is Mr. Martin Luther King.
Step 7. View each answer as correct
If there are two answers that you like the same, visualize the first one as the correct one. Then, try the second option and imagine in your mind that it is the correct one. You probably have a "hunch" that one of them is wrong. In this case, choose the other.
People often have a strong feeling about something without remembering its specific details. For example, it is possible to remember whether or not you liked a person you have recently met, even if you cannot remember their name
Step 8. Look for exact opposites
If the two choices are opposite each other, one of them is possibly correct.
- If two answers on a math test are a) 7 and b) -7, one of them is probably correct.
- For example, imagine the question in a history test that deals with the impact of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and two of the answers are a) It allowed more citizens to vote and b) It increased voting restrictions. These express exactly opposite ideas and, in this case, "a" is the correct answer.
Step 9. Reject the absolute truths
If an answer insists on absolute truth, it will usually not be correct. Avoid responses that include the words never, always, all, each, and must. (Math tests are the exception to this rule.)
Answers that do not contain absolute truths are more likely to be correct. For example, the correct answers often contain the words or phrases generally, probably, most likely, rarely, usually, and usually
Step 10. Look for grammar clues
Pay attention to the grammatical matches between the question and the answers. The correct answer to the question will probably match in time and number, and the nouns and verbs will match.
For example, if the question says "What IS the most threatened species in the world?", You can remove "The Siberian leopard and Javanese rhinoceros ARE the most threatened species", since the question is written in the singular. (In this case, the answer could be "The royal woodpecker IS the most threatened species")
Step 11. Pay special attention to specific phrases or unusual words that you remember reading in the textbook
Questions for exams are generally based on information in the textbook, and teachers often use the same words and phrases from the book.
Underline any answers that contain specific phrases from your class or textbook, and evaluate those answers more seriously than others
Step 12. Eliminate extreme responses
Often there will be an answer that is obviously too long, and one that is too small, or too early or recent. You can discard them and choose from the rest.
- For example, if the question on a history test says "In what year was John F. Kennedy assassinated?", You can ignore "1863" and "2003" because they are clearly not within the correct time frame. Then choose from the remaining options (in this case, the answer will be 1963).
- If a math question says "What is 4 squared?", You can easily remove "2" since it is very small and "200" since it is very large. Then choose from the remaining answers (in this case, 16).
Step 13. Consider the "None of the above" and "All of the above" options
These options are the exception to the absolute truth rule, since they can be correct as much as 52% of the time they appear.
Step 14. Choose the longest answer
Often times the option with the most words is correct, as the teacher needs to include a large number of qualifiers to ensure that the answer cannot be refuted. You may not take the time to write wrong answers in such specific terms.
- For example, imagine a test drive with this question: "If you want to turn right, you must be at:". The answers provided are a) The left lane, b) The lane closest to the direction you want to turn, c) The right lane, and d) The center lane. The person who has taken the test has been more careful in writing option b (correct) to ensure that it cannot be disproved.
- The conditioning phrases can include in a period, in rare cases or within a small segment of the population.
- At the same time, longer answers can often trick you into choosing the most elaborate sounding suggestion. Use your best judgment and understand that this strategy is not a guarantee.
Method 4 of 5: Answer True and False Questions
Step 1. Pick the "true" answers over the "false" ones
If you can't decide, mark the answer as "true." Teachers generally find it difficult to write a false statement that sounds real. Therefore, there are often more "true" answers on a test than "false".
Step 2. Examine each part of an answer that includes a reason
Answers paraphrased to include a reason are often false. The first part of an answer might be true, but then the teacher will add an incorrect or incomplete modifier. This makes the entire claim false.
- Look for words like why, yes, given what and when.
- For example, evaluate this statement "Thomas Edison considers himself a brilliant visionary because he invented the electric light bulb." Thomas Edison invented many things, but he did not invent the electric light bulb. Instead, he invented a more durable, incandescent version of the light bulb.
Step 3. Be careful with answers that contain extreme modifiers
Statements that contain words like always, never, everyone, nobody, absolutely, better, worse, invariably, everything, and only are usually false.
Step 4. Prefer responses with qualifying words
Statements that contain words and phrases like Generally, Occasionally, might apply, probably some, most, and rarely are probably more true than false.
Step 5. Pay attention to double negation and negative prefixes
Read the statements carefully and pay close attention to words that use a negative prefix, such as disabled, unpopular, and insignificant. Misreading these words will completely change the meaning of the statement. A statement that describes something as not infrequent in fact claims that the fact is common.
Method 5 of 5: Read Comprehension Questions
Step 1. Read the first and last sentences to understand the main idea
If you are asked to identify the author's "purpose," "intention," or "main idea," pay close attention to the first and last sentences. If they seem to relate a lot, it is a good indicator of the main idea that the writer wants to convey.
Questions about the main idea usually contain words and phrases such as emphasizes, focuses, mainly deals with or the essence
Step 2. Take notes to identify the main idea
Write down keywords as you read and pay attention to words or concepts that are mentioned more than once or in great detail.
- Also, look for words such as although, but, except, unless and still, since they tend to highlight a key idea that the author has deemed necessary to qualify or clarify.
- A good strategy for solving questions like this is to write one to three words that summarize the main idea of each paragraph in the margins as you read. Later, when you answer a question about the main idea, you can refer to these annotations instead of having to reread a lot.
Step 3. Eliminate responses that are too broad or limited in scope
There are certain answers that you can immediately dismiss and then focus on the remaining options.
The answer is too broad in scope or too limited to fit the passage. For example, if the reading is about university students in France, an answer that describes all the people in France will be too broad. An answer that only deals with female university students in France might be too narrow
Step 4. Eliminate answers that contradict a statement in the reading
If an answer says something that is clearly different from something the author said in the passage, you can immediately dismiss it.
Step 5. Delete the answers that are not supported by writing
If there are facts specified in the answer that are not included in the written passage, you can discard it.
Step 6. Look up synonyms when specific details are requested
If an answer contains a word that has the same meaning as the main idea of the text, focus on that answer first to see if it is supported by reading.