If you are reading this, it’s probably safe to assume that you’re not taking an exam at this very moment, so the first thing to consider is what to do before you actually sit down to take an exam.
Sure, it may sound obvious, but the most important thing you can do to prepare well is start early. You need to practice working math problems many, many times and you need to reinforce terms and definitions many times in order to perform well on exams.
That means you should preparing start at least a week before your test.
Prepare with the right materials. The night before you have a test, be sure to gather the materials you need. Don’t forget to pack something to let you keep track of time, like a watch. Timekeeping is an important part of good test performance, but many students rely on phones for telling time – and phones will not be allowed on your desk during the exam. You may need to borrow a watch from a parent or friend.
Survey the exam questions. As soon as you receive the exam, look over all of the questions. Some of them will look easy, so tackle those first. Answer everything you know for sure, and answer thoroughly.
Create a time management plan for the rest. Once you’ve answered the easy questions, you will need to come up with a time management plan for the rest of the test. This sounds like a lot of work, but what it really means is that you need to plan how much time you can afford to spend on each question.
If you have lots of true and false questions, for example, you know that you can answer those pretty quickly. Be strategic if you don’t know the answers right away.
If you have several terms to define or if you have an essay question to answer, be sure to give yourself ample time. Do a quick calculation in your head to give yourself a time limit for each remaining questions.
Read the questions very carefully. Short-answer and essay questions will contain very special instructional words.
You must read over your question carefully and be certain that you understand what the instructor is asking.
One common mistake that students make on exams is answering half of a question. A teacher can put multiple question into one essay or short-answer question, so make sure you break down the question and understand exactly what information you should provide in your answer. Include lots of details!
Make notes and outlines. If you are allowed to use a scratch paper during the exam, do some brainstorming before you jump in for your essay answer. Write down everything you should include in a “mind dump” on your scratch paper, and be sure to work in as many new terms and vocabulary words as you possibly can.
Once you’ve done this mind dump, you can quickly number your thoughts in an appropriate order. This should only take a few seconds. Then, start writing your essay!
You probably don’t have to worry too much about formatting your essay in a formal way or creating a thesis statement. Teachers usually expect essay answers to be more in the form of a flow of information. However, it’s a good idea to make your essay as organized as possible!
Make sure that your writing is readable. Don’t be sloppy, or you could find that your bad handwriting costs you a few points here and there.