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4 Under-Appreciated Test Taking Tips

May 9, 2019
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It’s test day, baby! Let’s get psyched!

Wait, just kidding. I hate tests. I don’t want to do it. Please let me bury myself under the covers and watch “Game of Thrones” all day. Pleeeeeeeease!

Indeed, we all have complex feelings when it comes to test day. Performing under pressure is a fine skill to learn: we all have many tests in our lives, so it is eminently practicable. And even better news: it is learnable!

Today, let’s explore four clever test-taking tips that most people overlook or under-appreciate.

1. Guess the same letter.

If you’re running out of time and you have a bunch of questions left, the statistics show that it is in your favor to pick a letter– any letter– and guess it all the way down for the remainder of the questions.

That “C” is the most common answer is an old wives’ tale and has been disproved multiple times. My go-to guess answer, for example, is “B”: whenever I’m running out of time, I just fill in “B” all the way down the column. Studies have shown this will maximize the probability of gaining points for guessing.

2. Don’t worry about running out of time.

Many people are allergic to running out of time on tests. They equate running out of time with failure. Obviously I need to do everything in my power to finish on time, they think. The truth is typically different.

Unless you are a high-soaring overachiever looking for near perfection, you have room in your performance for incorrect answers. Most people, in other words, can get their goal score and still get a great number of questions wrong.

With this in mind, I always advise students to focus less on the obsession of sprinting through a test at full speed (which often results in finishing on time but with terrible quality) and instead to focus more on quality work that gets the job done even if it means running out of time.

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3. Don’t follow the rules.

If you are a meticulous rule-follower, be prepared to cringe. The next piece of advice is to consider taking the test out of order.

Know thyself! If you are the type of person who does better emotionally when you float through the section, quickly knocking out easier questions, and then circle back to the hard questions wherever they may lie– then do it! Or the type of person who likes to do the big, hairy, disgusting, time-consuming problems first and then quickly breeze through the easier questions towards the end, cool!

There is absolutely no rule that you have to answer the questions in the order in which they are given.

4. Don’t forget about posture.

The brain operates on oxygen, and the body best produces oxygen when we are sitting and moving in certain ways.

As you navigate a test– especially one that is lengthy– always be cognizant of the value of shifting your position: opening your chest, exhaling deeply, stretching out once in a while, etc.

Body posture goes a long way to keeping the blood and oxygen flowing and therefore keeping the brain sharp.

I hope you find these techniques serve you on your next big game day! Best of luck and STORM IT!


This entry was posted in Brain Food, BrainStorm’s resource center for parents.
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