Efficient Exam Prep and Testing Strategies

Zofeya Dookie, Edited by Ifa Tella
Published on
December 19, 2022

All students have different methods and habits for studying and this article contains tips on how to study for high school quizzes and exams in efficient ways and other studying tips that I’ve personally gathered over the years that you can make use of however you see fit! 

As soon as you hear the date for the test, mark it on your calendar.

The first step to start efficiently studying is becoming mentally prepared. You don’t have to begin reviewing for your test the minute you’re informed about it, but it is imperative that at the very least you mark the test date on your calendar. If you don’t have an academic planner already, I highly recommend using one. You can either buy a physical planner, or create a digital one using various templates that can be found online. Being organized is the first step to becoming a successful student; having one clear database to sort out all of your upcoming quizzes/exams and homework will alleviate any pressure and help clear your mind significantly!

Create a studying schedule.

Another tip I recommend is to create a study schedule for the days/weeks leading up to your exam. Skim through the list of topics you need to review and make emphasis on ones that you struggle with; try to spend extra time on those topics. Be realistic with your goals, and make sure that you can review all of the material in time for your test or exam. For instance, if the exam you are studying for is a full unit test consisting of material dating back weeks prior, you might want to begin studying at least up to a week or two before to make sure you spend enough time on every topic. Keep in mind that quizzes from other classes might appear as well, and add one extra day to take a practice test once you’ve reviewed all the material.

Take practice tests. 

The next piece of advice is to take at least one practice test before your exam/quiz. It’s true that not all subjects will have accessible practice tests, but in that case, you can always create your own! This can prove to be even more helpful than doing a pre-made practice test because you’re going through practice problems from your notes and subconsciously making note of which questions are more difficult, less difficult, etc. Some great resources that you can utilize for practice exams are Khan Academy, Quizlet, Quizziz, Study Guide Zone, SoftSchools.com, and more!

Studying method: Active recall.

Use active recall! Active recall is a studying method that involves prompting yourself to list all the information (sometimes in small chunks) of a topic that you can remember. It then requires you to go through your notes afterwards to identify what you missed. 

This method of studying is an extremely efficient way to ensure that all the information you need to have memorized by the test day will stick in your head; it also forces us to remember information instead of relying on having it directly in front of us while studying. Other specific techniques of active recall include using flashcards, the blurt method, whiteboard recall, etc. Here is a useful blog article written by a fellow Simple Studies member that goes into more detail about some of these wonderful techniques!

Being aware of how a test is formatted beforehand.

In terms of preparing for timed tests, something that helps me out a lot is being aware of the format the test is going to be in, in addition to the grading system my teacher will be using. This might seem difficult especially at the beginning of a semester if you’re unaware of how your teacher formats tests/does grading, but don’t forget that there are always upperclassmen and people who have taken that class before that are there to help! Don’t be afraid to ask them, or even your teacher, any clarifying questions you may have before the test day. Being aware of the types of questions the test may have, and your capability of answering them beforehand. 

Be confident in yourself! 

With test-taking strategies everyone has their own individualized strengths and weaknesses. Some may be able to complete questions on a test easily and retain all the information they learned, however it isn’t as simple of a task for everyone. If you are someone who struggles with feelings of anxiousness on test days, just know that you aren’t alone! In times of uncertainty, trust yourself and be confident in how much you studied and prepared for your exam. A significant part of preparing for a test doesn’t have to do with just knowing the material alone, but also gaining enough courage to apply that knowledge and do your best. 

Make use of your time during the test.

When you’re handed the test paper, write your name and fill in any other additional information, then skim over the entirety of the exam before picking up your writing utensil to answer any questions. 

Similar to making note of which topics you’ll have to spend more time reviewing before the test, marking up any questions that you suspect will take longer can also be beneficial to your performance on the exam. To elaborate, if you spend a half hour of a timed test working on the multiple choice questions worth only two points each, you could potentially run out of time and not be able to finish a single question worth 10+ points towards the end of the test because you didn’t look beforehand! 

Answer as many questions as possible.

Once you’ve skimmed the test and have identified which ones are easier or harder for you to answer, try to finish the easier ones first; so you have a better chance of receiving points for them. Once you’ve completed those, focus on the more difficult ones; don’t be afraid to go back and forth between those questions if you have any trouble, but always remember to answer them later on in the test. Worst case scenario if you don’t know how to answer a question even after looking at it multiple times, just take an educated guess! Receiving partial credit for multiple short-answer questions is better than having a full answer for only one, and leaving the remaining blank! 

Here are some more test-taking strategies:

  • Try to complete every question you can and don’t be discouraged if you end up running out of time, take at least 30 seconds to make sure that your answer sheet (if you have one) is filled in entirely and correctly.
  •  Don’t leave any multiple choice questions blank! Most multiple choice questions have 4 choices, which means that whichever you choose, even if it’s just a wild guess, has a 25% chance of being correct, which is better than the 0% chance you have of getting it correct if it is left blank.
  •  Annotate the question. One of the most common mistakes made by students when it comes to test-taking is carelessly misreading questions. Take your time to really understand what the question is asking you to find, make sure you identify all parts of the question if you are asked to find multiple things, and highlight or circle any key terms that are needed to solve for the answer.

I hope that these tips will prove to be useful to you in your journey of studying for and taking any exams you may come across! To summarize this entire article in a few words, I would say that managing your time wisely and being aware of your strengths and weaknesses are key to doing well on an exam, as well as having confidence in yourself. Happy test-taking :). 


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