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Monday, February 16, 2015

7 Test Taking Tricks: Increase Your Score Dramatically Without Wasting More Time Studying

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Despite the constant onslaught of advice provided for students, virtually none of the information provided is good. Sure, there is a lot of advice that can increase your grades a little but really, who cares? I do not want to stare at my textbook 3 hours a day to see my score increase by 5%. It’s just not worth it. I want to see my grade shoot up without investing a ridiculous amount of time. That’s what this whole blog is about.

While this blog focuses a lot on test preparation, there is actually a fundamental factor that can often be overlooked. This factor can easily increase your test scores by 10% without even investing another second. With a little time, crazy increases can happen. That factor is test taking skills.

Let’s face it. We all think we suck at test taking but if there is one thing worth buckling down to learn its this skill.

Using these test taking tricks you can see a dramatic increase in your final score while investing the bare minimum amount of time.

1. Last Second Cram


The amount of time required to study is significantly dependent on the amount of time you have until the test. The human brain has long term memory and short term memory. Long term memory is the strategy employed by the vast majority of students. Long term memory is what you’re using when you study days before the test (or weeks before it.) Using short term memory is often neglected.

By studying within 20 minutes of taking your test, you can maximize the value of your short term memory. The closer you are to test time, the better you’ll remember the information you’re studying. While it has some severe limitations, those limitations mean nothing compared to the huge score boost you’ll get.

Certainly, you shouldn’t rely on the last second cram to provide you with your whole test score but it can definitely be used to give your test score a shot of last minute points.

2. Early Test Notes


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This next step is so powerful that it can feel almost like cheating.

So, after your last minute cram, ideally when the teacher is starting the class and before the test is handed out. Put your study material in your bag. You won’t need it and it will just make it harder to do this next step. As soon as the teacher hands you your test to start, use the margins to write down everything that you’re afraid you’ll forget.

Yes, any of that last second cramming information you’re worried about losing because of the heat of the test, write it right on the test. It can’t get forgotten now.

Will a teacher ever ask a question about it? Sure, but just tell them the truth, you were afraid you’d forget in the heat of the test. (Your books were away and you were allowed to start to test.)

I’ve actually received compliments from teachers for that strategy.

3. Quick Run


Once you’ve got everything prepared to start taking the test, it’s time to maximize the accessibility of the information you just last minute crammed. More importantly, you’ve also got to find a way to use your memorized information without letting the stress take over. One of the best ways to do that is to pick up the pace.

Go through the test as quickly as you can possibly do it. Skip every question that isn’t easy for you to complete. Do that until the end of the test. In an average college test you can expect an easy 50% of the test to be completed at this point. (Of course, every class is different. That’s just a guideline to look for. If you don’t reach it, consider the possibility that you need more test prep.)

This helps in the two goals mentioned earlier.

First of all, you’re utilizing all of the information you just memorized as quickly as you can use it. Since it’s only in your short term memory, it’s essential that you get it out fast.

Second, this is a relatively stress-free process. If you’re stressing out then you’re doing it wrong. If you can’t answer a question without breaking a sweat then you shouldn’t be trying to answer it in the quick run.

After you finish your quick run through the test, you can focus on going back through for the tougher question. (I recommend you skip questions you need to guess on until after you answer every answerable question too. This can help you not twist your brain into too many loops before you finish the important stuff.)

4. Critical Reading/Common Sense


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I’ve taken more tests without any prep than I’d like to admit. This is not a very smart practice but it teaches you some important things about test taking.

A significant portion of test taking is reading and paying attention to the test. I’ve repeatedly taken tests where the answer to one question can be found looking at a later question on that same test. By reading the later question, I can logically extrapolate the early answer.

That being said, there is an even more common problem with many tests. Oftentimes, usually poorly written tests, actually give away most of the answer directly in the question. Using a little common sense you can figure it out.

Sure, it may be intimidating to look at some of the questions you’re sure you don’t know the answer to but by taking a few minutes to dig into them, you may find they’re actually some of the most obvious questions around.

Worst case scenario, by reading carefully, you may be able to figure out enough to make an educated guess.

5. Stress Free!


One of the easiest ways to ruin your grade by at least 10% is to get stressed out.

The human brain is not designed to remember things when it’s significantly stressed out. If you’re curling yourself into a ball of worry while taking tests then you’re killing your own grade. You need to change your strategy.

Controlling an emotion like stress can seem almost impossible but it can be done. There are tons of strategies for doing it. You only need one of them to work for you.

Personally, I accept my fate before the test is even handed out. Honestly, after you’re finished studying, you either know the information required to kick-ass on the test or you don’t know it. There is no more possible prep time. It’s over. The grade might as well already be written on the test. No amount of stress will positively impact your test score from that point on.

6. Early Test Scoring


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This following test strategy doesn’t directly increase your test score at first but it’s actually one of the most interesting tricks you have. By using the information it provides, you’re able to cater the time you invest in the test to however high you want your score to be.

Go through your completed test before handing it in. Next to each question, mark it with one of three symbols. Use one symbol for the questions you know you got right. Use another symbol for the ones you think you got right. Use the final symbol for guesses you made. Count the total number of each type question on your test.

Assuming your test gave 1 point per question, give yourself 1 point per sure-thing answer, and give yourself half a point for every maybe answer.  Using that total number, you can estimate (usually a lower end) of the score you can expect.

Simply put, estimate the score on your own test before handing it in.

If you’re satisfied with the score then hand it in.

If you’re a little disappointed with it, keep working on the details until you can pump it up a few more points.

The best part of this is that you leave the test knowing whether or not you completely bombed it or did amazing.

7. 15 Minute Test Prep


Using these quick test taking tricks you can increase your scores a ton. Just learning to use a few of these tricks can easily boost your score by a single grade level. That being said, they are not more powerful than what can be done with an effective study strategy.

Notice the word effective.

While the vast majority of study strategies people are taught these days are virtually complete time wasters, there are alternative strategies that can show massive score gains with virtually no time invested in studying.

Personally, I recommend my 15 Minute Test Prep Strategy. You can learn more about that by checking out my article on this blog.

By using this test prep strategy, you can ensure that failing doesn’t even have to be on your radar. Heck, A’s will sometimes come on accident (not that I’d complain.)

Test taking skills can take you far but proper test prep strategies can take you all the way.

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