5 Test Prep Skills You Need for Success

Article-Photos12Standardized tests can be daunting. For certain students, such exams resemble a magnifying glass, held up to their weaknesses. They can feel like a tremendous burden and drain your confidence. But standardized tests can also do just the opposite. Here are five ways to ensure your test day experience is as stress-free as possible:

1. Learn the basics

If you arrive at the exam center with no knowledge of the test’s structure–the lengths and order of the sections, the number of breaks you receive–you will do poorly. While certain exams are more transparent than others, all tests publicize a good deal of very helpful information. Utilize such information to prepare yourself mentally. Learn section lengths to pace yourself. And if the first portion is, say, an essay, knowing that upfront will give you a large mental edge.

2. Recognize exam patterns

Each test has its quirks, and if you complete numerous practice exams, you will begin to note them. Many mathematics tests pose the same questions from year to year–but with different numbers inserted into the problem! If you determine how to solve these questions beforehand, you’ll essentially earn a free point for each. Nearly all exams also have questions that they ask for almost every reading passage.

3. Differentiate between difficulty levels

Answer the simple portions first. Since they typically count for the same amount of points as the difficult parts, do not waste time earning one “hard” point when you could use that time to earn three “easy” points.

4. Patch your weaknesses

If you consistently struggle with a test’s practice materials, those problems will not magically disappear come exam day. But they will disappear if you anticipate them. Identify your weaknesses, and then address them. If apostrophes confuse you, or if you are unclear on several math formulas, create flashcards. When questions pertaining to those flashcards appear on the exam, you will be ready for them.

5. Take good physical care.

Eat a sensible dinner the night before an exam, a hearty breakfast the morning of, and get a good night’s sleep! This goes without saying. In addition, do not review the evening before the exam. Most standardized tests are long enough as it is. Avoid entering them exhausted from hours of preparation.

Finally, have fun (really!). Once you complete the above suggestions, the exam is less a dreaded ordeal and more an opportunity to demonstrate your strengths.


This article was written by Caleb Zimmerman

Caleb Zimmerman is a professional writing and test-prep tutor for Varsity Tutors. He graduated from The King's College in New York City in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in politics, philosophy, and economics.

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