Springwood Test Taking Tips One of the greatest errors Springwood students make is in believing that preparing for tests begins the night before the exam. Remember what you have read to this point. Taking a test means retrieving learned material from long term memory. That means you have done your part to get the material into your long term memory in the first place. “Cramming” the night or days before an exam moves little information into long term memory and increases what you will have to learn later for a major cumulative test like a mid-term, final, standardized test, or college entrance exam. Preparing for a test requires active participation on your part. Place a check by each one of the following strategies you have used to prepare for a test. The list comes from the strategies we have discussed in the Springwood Success For Life Study Strategies Curriculum. ___ You “primed” your brain before each reading assignment. ___ You sat near the front of the class and paid attention to the teacher ___ You have been prepared for every class. ___ You used SQ3R and took careful notes from reading and from classroom activities. ___ You created questions to answer as you read new material. ___ You took the time to read your notes as soon as possible after class. ___ You re-read your notes before class the next day. ___ You took the time to summarize the notes you took using graphic organizers, and/or by verbally summarizing the key points aloud. ___ You linked any new concepts to prior learning. ___ You took deliberate steps to put yourself in a positive frame of mind for studying. You verbalized belief in yourself and/or quoted scriptures that are particularly meaningful to you. ___ You read key portions of your notes just before going to sleep. ___ You reviewed your notes whenever you had “down time” in your day. ___ You kept your brain hydrated while you studied. ___ You took stretch breaks while studying. ___ You activated both sides of your brain while studying. If you were able to place a check by most of the strategies you are well on your way to being well prepared for taking any exam. Remember, test taking strategies are habits that can be learned. If you were unable to place a check by any of the above strategies don’t lose heart. New habits can begin today and are well worth the effort. Let’s get started. Part of understanding what preparing for tests is, is understanding what it is not. Many students assume that studying means: • Only re-reading the textbook. • Only reading what they highlighted with a marker in class. • Only reading their notes. • Re-writing their notes verbatim instead of making them meaningful. While these strategies may work in part, they are not the best way to approach an exam. Reviewing the list from the previous page is a good beginning. Assuming you have already done that, let’s examine what Springwood students know to do when faced with an exam. Step 1 - Size-up the Exam Knowing what you are up against can be helpful and help reduce the stress. Sizing up the exam means finding out more than just how long it will be. Asking your teacher what type of questions might be on the exam can help you know how to study (multiple choice, essay, short answer, true/false, etc.). These factors will affect how you will study and what kind of personal study questions you will prepare for yourself to practice. Asking about test questions at the beginning of class may overwhelm a teacher whose mind is on getting right into the day’s lesson. We suggest asking them ahead of time via e- mail or in a written note so the teacher can have time to prepare an answer. Here are some possible questions to ask the teacher. • Are the questions primarily from the lectures, textbook or outside reading? Remember what you have learned about topics the teacher stressed in class or was particularly enthused about. • Are the questions cumulative? Do they cover all of the material since day one of class, or since the last exam? Note that cumulative exams usually cover the semester material equally unless new material has been covered since your last major test. In this case, the new information could be emphasized. • Do the questions focus on broader topics, specific details or both? The answer is usually “both” but it doesn’t hurt to ask. • Will you have a choice of questions? If so, this may help you confine your review to more specific topics. • What information will be provided? For example, will you be given the formulas for a math exam? • Will it be a special exam like take-home, open book, or use of notes? These are rare but it doesn’t hurt to give your teacher the choices to consider in the future. • Does your teacher have any strongly held viewpoints or opinions about the subject matter? If he/she does, it is worth considering as you answer essay or short answer questions. Your goal is to pass the exam and use any ethical edge you can to do so. More tips to size-up the exam: • Be careful “how” you ask about the questions on the exam. Teachers have had years of experience with students asking these questions out of laziness rather than an earnest effort to prepare for the exam. • Review your previous exams for the course to determine patterns in the types of questions the teacher asks and how they are graded. • Talk to students who have had exams from the same course and the same teacher. They can give you an idea of the types of questions asked. Note - Asking a student who takes the same course from the same teacher at a different period questions about specific content on the exam is cheating. “Did she ask you to list the biomes?” is content specific and is cheating. “Did she ask short answer questions?” is using fair strategy. Ask your teacher to elaborate if you fail to see the difference. • Consider attending a review session. Some teachers offer review sessions outside of normal class hours. This is particularly true in college. Teachers are particularly impressed by students who show enough interest to attend. While attending takes time from your personal schedule, it can yield extremely beneficial information. If teachers do not offer after class review sessions, you may want to schedule one with your classmates. Such reviews can give you not only review time, but can offer insight from other students about what to expect on the exam. Step 2 - Review the Overview for the Course Refer to the overview for the course provided to you by the teacher. That overview can yield broad topics and give you an idea of some of the test content. These overviews may be provided online by some colleges. Step 3 - Create Your Timeline for Studying for the Test By now you realize that studying for the test should begin the first day you have class. Studying is a constant state of preparedness where you review the day’s class content after every class. Having said that, a careful plan to review your calendar and plan study time for an upcoming exam is beneficial. The example below is based on a “five day before the test” schedule. The number of days in your plan may vary based on the amount of information to review. Day Five - Review what you need to study from your notes, textbooks, class handouts, lab assignments, etc. Review the content you highlight that was stressed by the teacher as “important information” during that given assignment. Day Four - Review the graphic organizers you created following each class. If necessary, create a different organizer to review the same content. If you failed to create one as a means of review after the class, now is definitely the time to make and review one. Day Three - Review your notes for the analogies, applications, acronyms, and rhymes you created to help you remember the information. Use the information you gathered regarding the kinds of questions that may be on the test to create some questions of your own to study. Day Two - Review the questions (and answers) you made for yourself. Review these several times. Plan the evening so you get a good night’s sleep. Remember to review the most important concepts just before going to sleep. After reviewing the concepts go to sleep. Don’t play video games or watch TV. Allow your brain to focus on the content you reviewed rather than the plot of the television show. Day One - This is the day of the test. Try to stay relaxed. Remind yourself of your hard work thus far and take that confidence into the exam. Try applying what you just learned. Let’s assume it is Monday morning. You just finished morning break. That cinnamon roll was extra good today. Mr. P was setting up lights and music for lunch. You walk into third period and WHAM! A major test is assigned for this Friday. Consider what you face this week. On a separate sheet of paper make a five-day plan to prepare for the test. Step 4 - Review Your Original Notes and Graphic Organizers Reviewing your original notes may reveal content that you left out of graphic organizers or other study devices. Step 5 - Create Your Own Test You know what the teacher taught - now use that information to form and answer test questions of your own based on the content. This is one more way to get the information into your long term memory. Step 6 - Handling the Jitters Test anxiety can be very real and have a significant impact on the brain’s ability to recall information. That’s why ample study time before the exam is essential. Not only does it get the information into long term memory, but it builds confidence in yourself that you are prepared for this test! If you are prone to serious bouts with test anxiety use the scripture quotes provided in this book to remind yourself of God’s love for you and His desire to see you succeed. Speaking these promises quietly to yourself can override the negative thoughts you are having. Try it! Here is one verse as an example: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 Step 7 - Handling Panic Okay, let’s say you studied your head off and you sit down in front of the exam and… nothing. You can’t remember a thing. The more you try the more clouded your mind gets. Have you ever had that feeling? If not, count yourself fortunate. If you have, welcome to the human race. It can happen to anyone and knowing strategies to attack the nerves can help get you back on track. Panic produces chemicals in the brain that can reduce your brain’s ability to recall information. The secret is to make your brain shift from panic mode to success mode. How? Search through the exam and find the easiest question on the exam - one that you feel real good about the answer or can make a pretty good guess. Answer that one question and push the test away. Remind yourself you just got one right and there are probably more you can find. This may not be your “A+” exam day, but you can sure give it a run to get at least some right. Focusing on answering the questions takes your mind off failure, and answer by answer you will gradually get your confidence back. Interestingly, a recent study found of students taking an SAT exam, the group who scored the highest were those who considered themselves “nervous” about the test. The ones who scored the lowest were those who began the test feeling “overconfident.” What’s the point? If you find yourself nervous realize that it is natural, and probably 99% of the people in the room with you feel the same way. Finally, remember the power in quoting a favorite Bible verse. Saying it aloud very quietly interrupts the thought process and reassures you. It’s like counting to 100 in your head and someone asks you a question. You have to stop thinking to answer the question. Use the same principle of verbalizing God’s promises to you to stop any negative thoughts from rolling around in your head. Remember, “God loves you, and..” you know the rest. Step 8 - Test Day Preparation It’s best to try and follow a normal schedule on big test days. Be careful not to oversleep and make yourself late to school. Tardies at Springwood are a pain and you do not need the added stress of a tardy just before a major exam. Be careful not to consume too much caffeine. The “Red Bull crash” can leave you physically challenged to recall basic information. Dress in layers if you will be testing in an unfamiliar setting. Some college entrance exams are given in large lecture halls whose inside temperature can fluctuate considerably. Shivering or sweating create challenges you do not need. When you arrive to the testing site avoid talking to too many students. One comment from a friend such as “Man, I think I’m gonna fail this exam” can create unfounded worry in you that is counter-productive. You don’t need someone else’s nervous energy upsetting your own concentration or faith in yourself. If seats are not assigned, choose one that allows you to concentrate. Sitting by the door is probably the last place you want. Sitting by a wall or in a corner is best. Both give you a safe place to look away and think without the appearance of looking on someone else’s paper. When You Receive the Exam The first few moments after receiving the exam are critical. Following some simple strategies can make a big difference in your success. • Catch your breath. As soon as your test is in your hand take a deep breath and write down anything you are afraid of forgetting. Do this before you look at the test. Writing formulas or important dates on your scratch paper is allowed after you receive the test. Stick to those things that gave you the toughest challenge to learn. Those may not have made it to long term memory and writing them now may help. • Look at the Test. Begin by reading the directions. Underline key words in the directions. Then skim through the test to look at the total number of questions and the time you are allowed for the test. Budget your time accordingly. • Read the questions that require an essay or long answer. As you read these, jot down key concepts you will use in answering the question on your scratch paper or in the margins of the test (if allowed). This is like brainstorming answers while your brain is fresh. These notes do not have to be organized and should be the first things that come to mind as you remember the topics. You can rearrange the information as you answer the question later. Jot down as many facts as you can - especially on the questions you are unsure of. • Start. You are now ready to get started. Before you begin take the time to take a deep breath and sit up straight. Slouching does not convey confidence to your brain. “I CAN DO THIS” should be reflected in your posture, mind, and quiet words. Attack the questions you are the most sure of. This gives you confidence and may jar your memory to remember bits of information that will help you answer questions you did not know earlier. Tip - A very common test-taking mistake is spending the most time on questions about which you know the least. Spend time first on questions you know that you know that you know. This is particularly true of essay exams. A well-written essay on question 2 may influence the teacher’s grade on essay 3 that you knew the least about. If you are taking a timed test and begin to fall behind your pace to finish the exam, stop and ask yourself: What’s the best use of the time I have left? For example, it may be the 20 minutes would be better spent on 20 multiple-choice rather than one essay. Step 9 - The Test from Mars - What to do when You have absolutely NO IDEA where that question came from or what the answer is! I’m sure this has never happened to you. The following tips are for your friend who has. • Ask your teacher. There is no rule that says you cannot ask a teacher about a question on a test. That requires that you not care what your friends think about you for doing so. In fact, you’ll find that they will be listening very closely to what the teacher says to you. This will require some tact on your part. Here’s what not to say: - What’s the answer to this question? - This question is stupid. - What’s the answer to this stupid question? Instead, try the following: - Can you rephrase this question for me? - Can you help me understand what the question is asking? The answer to either question may provide the clue you need or may jar your memory. If nothing else, your teacher will know you cared enough to ask for clarification… and that doesn’t hurt, either. • Rephrase the question yourself. Restating it in your own words may make more sense to you and help you answer the question. • Postpone the question. Move on to one you can answer. Make sure you mark the question on the test or answer sheet to remind yourself to go back and answer it later. •If the answer is on the tip of your tongue, try visualizing. Visualizing where you were when you last studied that concept or what the graphic organizer looked like may help to make the connection in your brain. •Write something! If you have an essay question that has stumped you, begin writing something. You may find that restating the question as your opening statement jars your memory. If not, at least you have a start on what will likely become a very creative answer! Finally, if you cannot answer the essay question as stated, answer what you do know about the topic. It may only be related, but a well-written essay on a related topic is likely to earn you more points than no answer at all. • Changing Answers Uncertainty about a question can leave you searching for an answer. A rule-of-thumb is to go with your first impression regarding the correct answer. Don’t change the answer unless you have a very strong reason for doing so. Tips for “Acing” Multiple-Choice Tests Most exams are either all multiple-choice or contain multiple-choice questions. Most standardized tests you have taken in school have also been multiple-choice. You have probably seen a lot of multiple-choice exams while at Springwood. There are a separate set of strategies when it comes to taking these exams and we want you to know what they are 1. Read the question entirely before you look at the answers. Fully understanding the question is essential before you look at answers. Most questions have deliberate “almost” answers that can lead you astray. Reading the question entirely will reduce the chances of you getting fooled by such an answer. 2. Underline the key words in the question. Follow that by underlining the key words in the answer you think is correct. Doing so can also help to eliminate wrong answers. 3. When guessing, a positive choice for an answer is more likely to be correct than a negative one. 4. Don’t go against your first impulse unless you are positive. First impressions are often the right impression. 5. The answer is usually wrong if it contains the words “all,” “always,” “never,” or “none.” 6. When you don’t know the right answer, eliminate the ones you know are wrong. Each elimination increases your chances of guessing correctly. 7. Read the answer entirely. Tests often contain “decoy” answer that is almost correct, tempting you before you have considered the other choices. 8. When guessing, the longest and most complicated answer is often correct. The test-maker has been forced to add the qualifying clauses or exact words to make the answer correct. 9. Don’t give up on a hopelessly confusing question. Save this question for last. Re-read it and underline key words. Ask the teacher to rephrase, rephrase it yourself, or try drawing a timeline or picture that might help make a connection in your brain. Anything you do that eliminates wrong answers helps you! 10. Use the dots. Place small dots in the margin beside any question you answered but are unsure of, or beside questions that you have left blank. They will help you remember to go back to those questions should you have time at the end of the exam. 11. Check for Completion. Before you turn-in any exam make sure you have gone through and made sure every question has been answered. Also, periodically check to make sure your answer page or scantron form matches your exam. You don’t want to answer question 21 on your exam and find that you are on question 20 on your answer form.