Counseling & Guidance » General Test-Taking Strategies

General Test-Taking Strategies

Preparing for the Test

  • Make and use a study guide.
  • Listen to the teacher’s description of the test and ask questions.
  • Use your study time well by focusing on the things you don’t know.
  • Study with a friend.
  • Anticipate the questions you might see on the test.

Approaching the Test

  • Be prepared.
  • Study beforehand.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Have a healthy breakfast.
  • Approach the test with a positive attitude.
  • Use your test results to evaluate what you need to learn.
  • Think of a test as a way to show what you have learned.

Filling Out the Answer Sheet for Standardized Tests

  • Listen carefully to the directions.  
  • Fill in the answer spaces completely and avoid unnecessary stray marks.  Since the tests are often corrected by an automatic scanning machine, filling in the circle completely is very important.
  • Periodically check the number of the test question with the number on your answer sheet.  Be sure they’re the same.
  • Usually your first answer is correct.  Only change an answer if you are sure that the change is correct.
  • Skip those questions you don’t know and return to them later.  Do not waste time on one question.

Filling out the Answer Sheet for Teacher-Made Tests

  • Listen carefully to directions.
  • Look over the entire test for an overview.
  • Respond to the question asked.
  • Focus on key words in the question.
  • Think before responding.
  • Narrow your choices.
  • Read slowly and carefully.
  • Divide your time according to point values.
  • Watch for words like always, never, all, and none. These words include or exclude most responses.
  • In an essay test, plan before writing.
  • Focus on vocabulary.

Knowing How Standardized Tests are Scored

  • Ask if you will be penalized for unanswered questions. If so, it is better to guess.
  • Go over your answers if there is time.

Knowing How Teacher-Made Tests are Scored

  • Ask the teacher to explain how points are divided within the test.
  • Divide the time based upon the points awarded in each section. Keep track of the time allotted to allow you to finish.
  • Go over your answers if there is time.
  • Know your teacher’s requirements.  If vocabulary is stressed in class, use that vocabulary in your responses.


Following the Directions

  • Listen and read directions carefully.
  • Watch for signal words such as first, next, following, and other sequence words or clues.
  • Focus on verb commands that tell you what to do.
  • Be sure you know what is expected before beginning the test.


Testing Format

  • Ask your teacher about the test format before you start to study.
  • For a fill-in-the-blank test, prepare index cards/flash cards with key words and definitions.
  • For an essay test, use a graphic organizer or web to help you organize information and see relationships.
  • For multiple-choice tests, review your notes and chapter for key words and their definitions.


Question Awareness

  • Become familiar with the types of question patterns often used in tests.  Be sure you understand what these patterns require.


Narrow the Odds

  • In a multiple-choice test, eliminate the answers you know are incorrect.  Then make your best guess.  If you have onlytwo answers from which to choose, you increase your chances of being successful.



Test taking is like shooting baskets.  If at first you don’t succeed, keep with it and try again!
If you wish to print a booklet about general test-taking strategies, click below: