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Test-Taking Tips for Every Grade Level

Amber Brandt  |  September 27, 2022
We’ve all experienced the nerves associated with flipping that face-down paper over to begin a test. While there’s no miracle formula for recalling information or avoiding sweaty palms, there are a few things your child can try to make the experience more successful.
The first step to good test-taking for any age is to be prepared. When you have a solid, working command of the subject matter being presented, you can answer the questions more confidently. Preparation and review are key. Here are a few more tips that apply to students of every grade:
Strategies for Elementary students
  • Underline key words in the question. Calling out key words helps your student to focus on the important parts.
  • Eliminate incorrect answers. If they’re having trouble determining the correct answer, encourage them to start by eliminating the ones they know are incorrect.
  • Read questions first. When it’s applicable, encourage your student to read the questions before they read the required passage. This way they’ll be looking for key words while they read.
Strategies for Middle School students
  • Begin with short answers. Questions that require more elaborate answers (open-ended or essay) require the most brain power. Begin with those first then move on to multiple choice or T/F.
  • Look for outliers. When you’re not sure about an answer, it’s always easier to eliminate the ones you’re sure are incorrect. If an answer makes no sense or is completely different than the other choices, that’s an outlier you can eliminate first.
  • Watch for word frequency. Keep an eye out for words that are commonly repeated in the answers. If two or three options include say, cities in Pennsylvania vs. other states, choose your best option from the repeated answers.
  • Answer in your head first. When you read a question, try to answer in your head before you even look at the multiple-choice options. “Pre-answering” makes it easier to eliminate incorrect options.
High School students
  • Be conscious of time. When taking a timed exam, it’s important to remain aware of your pace. Encourage students to monitor time throughout the test and keep moving through the questions.
  • Don’t fixate on a difficult question. Like monitoring their pace, remind students not to stay too long fixating on a question they don’t know the answer to. They can always skip it and come back once they complete the rest.
  • It’s okay to make an educated guess. Deductive reasoning is a great way to determine the best answer when you’re unsure. Eliminate options you know are wrong and use what you do remember to make the best guess possible.
  • Look for clues in the question. Some questions are asking you for a factual response, “What happened after…?” or “Who said…?” and others are asking for your thoughts. Thinking questions begin with “What can you infer about X?” or “Why did the author include…?”