You'll feel more confident about your standardized test or certification exam if you approach test day with a solid plan. Hopefully, by now you've read our articles on test administration, question types, and test scoring. If you haven't yet, go back and read those articles before proceeding. You'll need that information to answer the questions below.
Now that you're an expert on types of tests, it's time to devise your personal test plan. How are you going to study for your test? What subjects will you focus on? What skills will you practice beforehand? Once you get into the exam, what situations are you likely to encounter and what will you do when you encounter them? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you feel in control and confident.
Every test plan will be different, but we've come up with a basic questionnaire to help you get started.
1) How is your exam administered?
For example, knowing if you'll be taking the test on a computer, using a scantron, or an oral exam changes what types of material you bring on exam day, and also the different methods you might choose to help you study.
2) What question types will you encounter?
Will they be multiple choice? Should you improve your vocabulary on a subject to write a better essay?
3) How is your exam scored?
Will it be scored by a computer? Will your essays be read by readers who may or may not have an exhaustive knowledge of a subject?
4) How long will you spend on an individual question before moving on?
This is important to consider before going into any testing situation. As time will not be unlimited (most of the time), then it is good to pre-determine your allotted time so that you don't get flustered on exam day.
5) At what point will you decide what to do with remaining questions?
Going in with a plan avoids a lot of stress on exam day. For example, it is good to have a plan in case you arrive at ten minutes remaining and you have more questions than you can reasonably answer in that time. A good plan might be to quickly go through the remaining questions and answer the ones you know immediately, then work on the remaining questions with whatever time you have left.
6) What will you do if you get stressed out during the exam and your mind goes blank?
You might practice breathing exercises designed to help clear your mind of clutter and stress, and, if possible, slowly start working through the test finding questions and answers you do know before returning to whatever question may have caused you stress to begin with.
7) Will you guess when you are not sure of the answer to a question?
It is important to know if there are penalties for an incorrect answer. If there are not, then making an educated guess is strongly encouraged for a multiple choice question that you may not know the exact answer to. On some tests, guessing is never a good idea.
8) If so, what are your criteria for guessing?
If you are going to guess, make a decision beforehand about when you will guess. Always? When you've narrowed it down to three possible answer choices? The answer to this question will vary based on how your exam is scored.
Tests are administered every hour of every day in the world. Every day is test day for someone, and it's important to keep that in mind. If for some reason, the exam doesn't go how you want it to, then the world will continue to spin. But with proper preparation and a solid game plan, no test is insurmountable.
When preparing for a test, it's important to keep in mind that the test is not designed to trip you up. All tests are designed to be passed. They are simply there to accurately assess what you have learned, so the best way to prepare for a test is to just learn and study the material carefully.