Test Taking Skills and Strategies
Listen to verbal instructions
Write your name and/or student number on all exam materials.
Read the directions very carefully
If you have any questions, ask!
Do the easy questions first
Work on one question at a time.
Writing Different Kinds of Exams
Objective Exams (multiple choice, true-false, matching questions, etc.)
- Read every word of the question carefully
- Watch out for qualifying words. Absolute terms, such as always, never, only, necessary and must, are rarely true. Relative terms, such as like, often, seldom, perhaps, sometimes and generally, are frequently true
- Cover up answers and anticipate correct answers
- Rephrase tricky questions
- Watch out for double negatives
- Work quickly. If you are stumped, circle the question and move on
- Always choose the best answer. This is often the answer that uses a phrase or word specific to the course
- When in doubt, guess! Improve your chances of guessing right by eliminating options you know are not correct.
- Read all questions over carefully. Once you have decided on a question, do not change your mind. Make sure you answer the question asked and follow the directions given.
- Take the time to compose a detailed outline.
- Write a strong thesis statement, which would be in the opening paragraph. It should contain your subject and 3-4 main points listed in the order in which you are going to write about them.
- Start writing. Be sure to provide plenty of concrete examples; the more specific references you can make the better. Completeness is much more important than simply answering the question. In general, the more you write, the better.
Common Instructional Verbs on Essay Exams
- Compare: Note similarity and differences
- Contrast: Compare to highlight differences
- Criticize: Judge and discuss the merits and faults
- Define: Explain or identify the nature or essential qualities
- Describe: Convey the appearance, nature, attributes, etc.
- Discuss: Examine by argument, comment, etc.; debate; explore solutions
- Enumerate: List various events, things, descriptions, ideas, etc.
- Evaluate: Appraise the worth and justify your conclusion
- Explain: Make the meaning of something clear, plain, and understandable
- Illustrate: Use specific examples or analogies to clarify or explain
- Interpret: Give the meaning by paraphrase, by translation, or by an explanation based on personal opinions
- Justify: Defend or uphold
- Outline: Do a general sketch, account or report indicating only the main features
- Prove: Establish the truth by evidence or argument
- Relate: Give an account to establish association, connections or relationships
- Review: Survey a topic, occurrence, or idea, generally but critically
- State: Present the facts concisely and clearly
- Summarize: State in concise form, omitting examples and details
- Trace: Follow the course, development or history of an occurrence.