Although the importance of tests can be overblown out of proportion (for instance, the popular tease that doing poorly on the SAT will doom one’s future), it is certainly a fact that throughout a societally responsible person’s lifetime, they will take many formal tests. These may be the academic variety through various levels of education, for certification purposes, for medical and psychological evaluations, or even other, less formal queries.
The most important item to remember about absolutely any test is that the only measure any test can take is how well you take that particular test. In other words, there is no perfect I.Q. test, because every one of those I.Q. tests can only measure how well someone takes it; they cannot truly quantify human intelligence, they can only provide a reference point in relation to itself.
Similarly, this applies to other subjects and areas. Just because someone does not do well on a physics final does not mean that they are not smart, nor even that they may not one day become very adept at physics. Keeping in mind that most tests fall into certain predictable categories (true/false, multiple choice, essay, etc.), here are a few applicable tips to improve scores and boost confidence.
It may sound silly at first, but studying truly remains as the best test-taking technique or tip available. Especially when applied to specialist subjects and very specific areas, and even more so when providing essay or “short” answers, studying the topic is of paramount importance.
If a test is over a certain chapter of a book, then that chapter should be read over and over, analyzed, critiqued, taken notes over, thought about, objectively examined, and memorized at least in part. Taking a test is just like most other pursuits in life: You will get out of it what you put into it. If you take it seriously and put a lot of effort into preparation, the results will more likely be in your favor.
In the matters of true/false and multiple choice quizzes, logical deduction is a test-taker’s best friend. This simply means that every question should be approached seriously, and never brushed over too quickly. Keep in mind, tests are usually created with little “tricks” in mind throughout the text to try and throw students or applicants off. Even someone with a cold knowledge of the subject matter may get answers wrong because they failed to critically examine the question. This may sound like test-preparers are preventing themselves from retaining every great mind available, but keep in mind, they are well aware of the potential risk: The ability to logically deduce a reasonable conclusion is likely just as desired of a skill as whatever subject is at hand.
One careful thing to look out for is negatives. Is there a “not” or a “no” tucked somewhere in the question? Sometimes a query can seem to obviously point to one answer, yet in reality it means quite the opposite. For complex questions with multiple changes in tone, it may take a moment to discern what it is truly saying. This is okay – take that moment to think it over, and ensure that your mind has successfully navigated the yes/no traps along the way.
This is the one subject that can be most universally applied to any other subject for a test. If someone is particularly well-versed in etymology, they can stand a better chances in a broad variety of areas, and possess an inherent advantage over those who do not have such familiarity.
Etymology is the study of words; specifically, their parts and roots. For instance, many people know that “bi” is a Latin-based root meaning “two,” thus indicating two wheels on a bicycle, two sets of wings on a biplane, two extremes in bipolar disorder, etc. Thus, if a question posits a simple two-related subject, someone who knows that words with “bi” in them are related to a two now stand a better chance of figuring out what answer is correct, even if they are unfamiliar with the subject. Booking up on etymology and learning a few hundred root meanings for word parts can be an excellent asset to have before a test.
Even if someone has gotten plenty of sleep, eaten a good meal, approaches a test with confidence rather than anxiety, has studied the text, and has intimate familiarity with Greek etymologies, they can still easily fail a test if they dwell on difficult questions or breeze through with overconfidence. Improper pacing can ruin even a genius’s chance at acing an exam.
The test-taker should, before the test begins, have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the time limit given. Then, they should either know the amount of questions there will be beforehand, or make it the first priority to find out. In addition, they should have a basic idea of allotment: How much time they have per question, and thus be able to keep track of their pace and ensure they are allowing enough time to complete the test. Although debate exists over whether it is better to skip a question or give it a “good try,” the simple fact is that if giving it an educated guess takes four minutes and ends up meaning the test-taker never got to answer five other questions, it should have been skipped to begin with and possibly returned to later.
Those are the basic tenets for fine test-taking, without resorting to underhanded or cheating means. If all else fails for an A-B-C-or-D question, and the test-taker needs an arbitrary way to randomly choose one and move on, they can use a funny little trick called The Clock Method: Look up at the analog clock and if the second hand is between 12 and 3, choose A; 3 and 6, choose B; 6 and 9, choose C; or 9 and 12, choose D. Otherwise, just ensure consciousness with confidence and the rest should take care of itself.