Feb 23, 2009

How to Take Standardized Tests

Like death and taxes, standardized testing is simply a fact of life that we all must deal with eventually. Supposedly, these are the tests that help administrators in admissions departments determine where best to place students, and obviously, a better score could mean the difference between a first pick and a safety school. To help maximize your potential with these tests, here are some quick tips.

Standardized testing is designed so that each test can be graded quickly and objectively, without much room for subjectivity. This usually means a multiple-choice format. Thankfully, test takers can use this format to their advantage. Multiple choice means that the correct answer is definitely given. If you are unsure about what bubble to fill in, start by narrowing down the answers. Usually, each answer list will include at least one glaringly false choice. Start by scratching out answers that you know are wrong and increase your odds for picking the right one. For math problems, try plugging answers back into the equation. Finally, research ahead of time how the test is scored. If you are not deducted any points for wrong answers, make sure to answer every question. If you are deducted, try to narrow down the choice to 2 answers, giving yourself a 50% chance of guessing correctly.

Pacing can be the key to a standardized test, so make sure to time your answer-rate with the amount of time given. If you find yourself stuck on a particular question for more than the allotted amount of time, skip it and come back to it later when you are finished. Keep checking the clock as you go to make sure you aren’t falling behind.

There are many books and even entire courses tailored to each individual standardized test. These usually include practice questions and pertinent subject matter, and can help even the most experienced test-taker. Use these to your advantage.

Of course, normal test-taking tips apply. Make sure to eat breakfast, bring water and snacks, and carry plenty of pencils. Bring a calculator if it is allowed. Usually, standardized tests can be taken multiple times, so if you think your first time out didn’t go that well, don’t worry--take it again, and learn from your mistakes.

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