The Catholic University of America

Test Taking:

 Preparing for your exam: 

  • Be academically ready by having a complete set of notes and by having all of the readings done
  • Find out about the test format and focus. Ask in class and figure it out from old tests
  • Try to get better at predicting a professor’s test questions by comparing old tests to notes and by focusing on the professor's emphasis in a lecture
  • Use a study group to compare notes, brainstorm possible test questions, and test each other on the material
  • Be physically ready: get a good night's sleep and make sure not to go to the exam hungry
  • Arrive on time, with all of the necessary materials

Avoiding test anxiety:

  • The best way to avoid stress is to be prepared; give yourself plenty of time to study in advance to really get the know the material
  • Give yourself time to review the material 

Taking your exam:

  • Choose your seat wisely; sitting in your normal seat might be helpful, but consider sitting somewhere different to be away from friends, near the professor, etc.
  • Scope out the test: skim over the entire test assess the format and value of all questions gauge your time demands
  • Choose which questions to answer (if that's a choice)
  • Decide where to start (not necessarily at the beginning)
  • Wherever there is room on the test, spill out anything you've memorized
  • Sketch an outline or "map" for essay questions
  • Start with the easiest questions to make sure that you don't miss out on easy points
  • Circle or underline key words in questions to stay focused
  • Go through the test to make sure you didn't miss anything
  • Read over and edit essays




Learning from your exam:

Find out what you missed - Check over every item for which you received partial or no credit and find the right answers.

Find out why you missed it :

  • Misread the question
  • Tried to avoid the question by writing around it
  • Poor reasoning
  • Poor organization of the answer
  • Poor selection of support
  • Incomplete answers
  • Wrote too much (and exposed your ignorance)
  • Wrote too little
  • Careless computation
  • Inaccurate sketches or diagrams
  • Poor time management

Check out your correct answers also so you can solidify them in your mind for the next test, especially those that were just good guesses.

Collect your errors and find their categories (including whether they derived from texts, lectures or both) so you can avoid them next time.

From the Professor:

  • Find out your relative standing in the class so you have an idea of your preparedness and mastery and/or of the difficulty of the test.
  • If test papers are not returned or returned only briefly in class, make an appointment to go over yours more carefully.
  • Ask for specific criticism, but with an attitude of wanting improvement and constructive criticism, as opposed to one of grade-grubbing or arguing. When talking with your professor, forget the actual grade which could only imply his/her inaccuracy or unfairness
  • Ask for a model of a good answer both to appreciate what you need to work on and to better understand what the professor is looking for.

Save all your exam questions and answers for future review:

  • You will have information on your professor's range and depth of focus
  • You will have a reminder about how he constructs and words a test
  • All or parts of some questions might be repeated or reworked