Preparing for Tests

Preparing for Tests

  • Do you ever feel unprepared for tests?

  • Do you usually wait until the day before a test to start studying?

  • Do you often study the wrong things?

  • Are your test grades lower than they should be?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you may want to work on improving the way you prepare for tests.

Many students listen in class and do all of their assignments, yet their test grades never seem to accurately reflect their knowledge or effort.

All students can improve their test scores and grades by using some simple test preparation strategies.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell

Strategies that Work

With the right preparation, studying for tests will take less time and effort, and your test grades will be higher.

Prepare as you go

  • Make the most of the time you have in class: ask and answer questions, listen, and take notes. Learning in class means that you have less to learn on your own.

  • Complete all homework assignments, and have all of your reading done several days before the test.

  • take good, well-organized class notes

    • Write on only one side of the paper and skip a line between topics.

    • Leave a wide margin on each page. Use this space to write in key words (topics, names, events, etc.).

    • After class, make sure that your notes are complete, and highlight the most important information.

The class before the test

  • In the class before the test, pay particularly close attention. This is when important test information is likely to be given.

  • Before you leave class, make sure that you know what information the test will cover, and what kind of test it will be (i.e., essay, true/false, multiple choice).

Test Preparation Resources

Before you begin to study, gather all test prep resources – notes, books, review sheets, etc.

When you have something to memorize, concentrate on learning it, take a break, then go back and review it. Keep reviewing until you know it.


Most test questions come from information that’s been presented in class, so your class notes are your best test prep resource. If you have key words written in the left hand column, cover up the right side of your notes; then test yourself to see what you can remember about each topic, event, person, etc.


Have all of your reading completed early so that you can use your study time to review the following:

  • Introductions and summaries

  • The first and last paragraph of each section

  • All bold and italic words

  • Chapter review questions

Other important test prep resources

  • Handouts and review sheets – study these and use them to come up with possible test questions.

  • Graded homework, quizzes, and tests – go over these carefully.

Test Preparation Tips

Create a study plan

Create a study plan that spreads out your studying. Starting early will eliminate the need for cramming.

Make flash cards and/or review sheets

Take the most important information and use it to make your own flash cards and review sheets. Highlight the key words and important phrases in your review sheets.

Explain it to a mirror

You really know something if you can explain it in your own words. Stand in front of a mirror and “teach yourself” what you need to know.

Adjust your studying for the test

  • True/false and multiple choice tests – know facts and detailed information

  • Essay tests – review main ideas and key facts

  • Open book tests – put self-stick notes in your textbook to help you find information quickly

Review often

When you review, you move information from your short-term memory into your long-term memory. Review is the key to learning anything.

Prepare Mind and Body

In order to do well on any test, you must prepare both mind and body.

  • The night before a test, get 8 hours of sleep.

  • If there’s something you want to remember, think about it right before you go to sleep.

  • Get up early enough to eat a good breakfast and not be rushed.

  • Practice visualization. Close your eyes and imagine yourself taking the test, answering the questions, correctly, and getting the grade you want.

  • Before you begin, think positive thoughts. If you are feeling anxious, take several slow, deep breaths; inhale through the nose and exhale out of your mouth.

  • Put a hard peppermint candy in your mouth. The peppermint makes your brain more alert.

  • Relax, and do your best.

“Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.” ~ David Bly