Taking Tests

College Tests. The stuff that freshman nightmares are made of.

  • Do you know what is important to take notes on in class?
  • Do you know what it means to study for an exam?
  • Do you have methods to track an entire semester’s information in order to successfully pass your final exams?
  • Do you know what to do if you don’t pass a test?

Succeeding on college exams is all about having a plan and following it through. Passing a test is not about how many hours you can stay awake prior to the test and frantically read and re-read notes. It’s about taking small steps every day, every week in order to have a successful test taking experience. Do your reading before every class, take notes during class, review your notes afterwards, take practice exams and get rest and eat well before an exam.  These simple building blocks are adaptable to any test on any subject matter.


  1. Read the directions carefully. Pay attention to details of the instructions. Determine which questions are worth the most points and develop a plan before answering any questions
  2. If you go blank when you look at the test, turn it over and start writing down everything you remember on the back of the exam. Doing this for a few minutes will help to remove your mental block, diminish anxiety and help you focus on answering the questions.
  3. For multiple choice questions, cover up the answers, read the question, right down in the margins what you think the answer is, THEN read the possible answers. This is a good way to avoid second guessing yourself and trusting what you know.
  4. For an essay test, make an outline before you begin writing so that you know what your points are, what your structure is and when you know you’ve said everything relevant to the question being asked.
  5. Make sure to self-test. If the first time that you take a test is the first time you’ve read a question and tried to determine if you knew the answer, you have failed. It’s like not having a dress-rehearsal before a big performance. If you take a practice test, you have a chance to find out what you don’t know, and re-focus your studying before you take a test and face losing points.


The content of this site and related documents are drawn from, or influenced by, the Learning Corner at Oregon State University.

Tools for Studying & Taking Tests

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