There are a lot of suggestions out in the blogosphere on how to study, most recently on Study Hacks.  But what about once you get into the room?  What can you do then to make sure you do as well as possible, and what are some tips and tricks?

  1. Dress comfortably – OK, it sounds dumb, but if your waist band is cutting into your side or your v-neck is too low, you’ll be distracted.  You don’t want anything fixable distracting you.
  2. Get there early – settle in, get your stuff out (pencil’s, paper, calculator, whatever).  Rushing is never productive, and the few extra minutes of review won’t make up for that stress.
  3. Read the instructions – no really; all too many people have lost easy points by not reading the instructions or the entire question before starting.  Don’t give away points.
  4. Look the whole thing over first – make sure you know how many pages, how many questions, and that you have a good idea format of the test.  Use that knowledge to make sure you allow yourself enough time.
  5. Do the questions you KNOW first – Go through the test, answering the questions you know.  If you aren’t sure, skip it and come back.  You may get some insight into the answer as you read through the rest of the test.  Just mark the ones you skipped so that you know to come back to them.
  6. Know your own test-taking skills and style – I know that if I go back and change answers, I tend to make things worse.  So I don’t.  Other people have to take that time to essentially re-do the test in order to get their best result.  Find out where you are and work with your own style.
  7. Brain dump if you had to memorize things – for example, if you memorized a bunch of formula’s, write them down immediately on scratch paper or the test itself.  Then you can focus on using them instead of remembering them.
  8. Multiple Choice tests:  
    • Try to answer the question yourself first
    • If you don’t know the right answer, try to eliminate the wrong ones
    • If two answers are almost the same, they are both wrong
    • Read the question carefully; Make sure you know what is being asked.
    • Pay attention to absolutes – always, never, etc.  These are rarely correct
    • Watch out for double negatives.  If you are getting confused, rephrase the question to remove them. 
    • Treat each possible answer as its own true-false question and see if that helps you see the answer.
  9. Essay or Short Answer tests:
    • Read the question carefully and make sure you answer all parts
    • Outline your answer to make sure you hit all the key points
    • Write legibly
    • Write in pencil so that you can make changes if necessary
    • Proofread your answer; its easy to miss a word or two when you are feeling pressed for time
    • Be direct and brief, but thorough
  10. Try to relax – that means also not getting yourself hopped-up on
    caffeine or some other stimulant.  Being jittery will only make the
    process more stressful.  Take a deep breath, roll your shoulders and
    shake out your hands.

Nothing can substitute for good preparation, but using the above tips can help you get through your exams and on to other tasks.