by Rick and Teena Kamal
Many students absolutely dread taking tests. Are you mentally or physically overwhelmed at the thought of tests? Preparation is the master key to overcoming anxiety and achieving test success.
Everyone feels some stress during exams, but prepared students can channel this energy to help them perform their best. Being well prepared is the key to managing test anxiety. Effective test preparation will help you conquer anxiety and prevent test panic.
So how can you prepare for tests without putting your life on hold? Follow these steps to study most effectively and boost your test scores:
1. Start with a Strong Foundation: Start bottom up by creating a good foundation. Attend your classes regularly. Don’t jeopardize your learning foundation by missing classes. Build a strong base by attending all your classes and actively listening to your teachers in the classroom without getting distracted.
Take notes during every class. Adopt a structured note taking approach and write down especially what your teacher emphasizes and repeats. Note questions and keywords as they are mentioned in the class. Use visual techniques like mind maps, Venn diagrams, timelines, process maps, hierarchies and diagrams to show relationships and connections.
Regularly review your notes at least once every week. If any open questions or doubts surface during your reviews clarify them with your teacher. While reviewing, summarize out aloud. Explain the concepts to someone or pretend that you are teaching these concepts to an imaginary audience. The best way to learn anything is to try to teach it. Once you have taught something to a real or imaginary audience, you are sure not to forget it.
2. Know Your Test Well: It is very important to know your target if you want to hit the bulls eye and score well. As soon as you can, start gathering data on your test and know everything you can about the test. Most students take this step for granted and miss on important opportunities to fine-tune their test preparation. Ask all kinds of questions to thoroughly understand what you are up against. Know the answers to the following questions about your test:
• What is the duration and format of the test?
• How many questions will be included?
• How will the test be graded and what is its impact on your final grade?
• What is the list of topics that will be covered?
• What is the level of difficulty for you?
• What is your target grade for this test?
• How much preparation time do you need to study, prepare and review?
• Can you cover all the material or do you need to drop lower priority topics?
• Are there any incomplete assignments that could impact your test preparation?
• Do you have any conflicting obligations that may impede your test preparation effort?
Collect all this data and keep it handy to create your test preparation schedule.
3. Prioritize Using a Crystal Ball: Do you wish you could predict test questions? There are a few strategies that can help you anticipate test questions with reasonable accuracy. Use the following techniques to figure out your test questions.
- Pay particular attention to your study guides. They include key points, important concepts, handouts, etc. All of which provide you with insight into what your teacher thinks is important on that topic.
- An instructor’s perspective is very valuable in helping you discern which topics are considered important and are likely to be on the test. Ask your teacher for their perspective, if you can. Use your notes to generate a list of questions, which can also accurately reflect your teacher’s perspective and thoughts.
- Use previous tests to get additional insight on what questions may appear on the test. Often sample tests can help you forecast exam content. Sometimes talking to seniors who have had the same teacher can help you anticipate test content. Use all these techniques to gather a list of anticipated questions. Once you have your anticipated question list, use it to prioritize your course material in the order of most important to least important.
4. Create a Blueprint for Success: Create a schedule for test preparation based on all the knowledge you gathered on your upcoming test and the prioritized course material. This should be done at least a couple of weeks before your exam. This plan should encompass at least the week before the exam. For major exams the preparation phase could be two to four weeks long. Use the following scheduling guidelines to create your test prep schedule:
• Schedule realistic preparation, review and practice time for all important test topics.
• Schedule an extra day to handle unexpected issues.
• Schedule the last day before the exam as a rest day where you will only review the important concepts you tend to forget.
• Schedule time for regular rest breaks between your study sessions to rejuvenate and reward yourself.
• Create specific goals for each study session.
Print this test preparation schedule and post it where it is visible. A week before the test it is time to start implementing the test preparation plan. Beware of all distractions and get rid of them during these study hours.
5. Quiz and Practice: As you prepare the topics, write down all the information you tend to forget on a sheet of paper. Include formulas, dates, places, examples, categories, etc. Use this information as your cheat sheet to review this information two or three times the day before your exam so it fresh in your memory.
- Quiz yourself and ensure you thoroughly understand the concepts. Ask people around you to help evaluate your understanding and knowledge. Ask yourself the 6W and 1H questions (who, what, where, when, which, why and how) on the important topics to ensure that you know all aspects of the topic.
- Practice your tests to familiarize yourself with the test format, time limits, etc. Get to know the structure and the directions of the upcoming test. This familiarity with the format will allow you to focus all your attention on the questions during the test. Time yourself to ensure that you can budget time effectively and finish the exam successfully in the allocated time.
- These practice sessions will provide you with feedback about your strengths and weaknesses. Use your weaknesses as an opportunity for improvement during the test preparation week.
These proven strategies will help you to conquer your test anxiety since you will gain confidence because of your preparation. Following these five important steps, you can ace your tests and unleash your full potential.
About the Authors
Study and life skills experts Rick and Teena Kamal founded EduNova to prepare students to lead and thrive in the global economy. They worked with 33 top university education experts and many successful senior excutives to produce resources that empower middle school, high school and college students to succeed. Learn more at www.HowToStudyBest.com.