Study Tips to Become a Better Test Taker
Did you know that there are certain ways you can improve your studying and pre-test habits to become a better test-taker?
An article for the Wall Street Journal titled, “Toughest Exam Question: What Is the Best Way to Study?” outlines five study tips that may improve how you perform on tests.
Practice Tests. I’m not talking about a study guide or an instructor-created practice test (although that would certainly qualify). I’m talking about testing yourself on the material over and over. According to the article, “testing yourself repeatedly before an exam teaches the brain to retrieve and apply knowledge from memory.” This is different than just reading a textbook or reading your notes. The goal is to ask yourself questions and require your brain to come up with the answers. You can use note cards to test yourself or find a study buddy who is willing to ask you questions.
Sleep. You’ve probably heard that you should get a good night’s sleep before a test. While this is true, according to the article, sleep is important in other ways as well:
- First, make it a point to study the most important things right before you go to bed. Why? Well according to Dan Taylor of the University of North Texas in Denton, you’ll be able to remember those things better.
- Another thing is that you shouldn’t wake up earlier than you normally do to try to cram in more study time. Why? “[Waking up earlier] could interfere with the rapid-eye-movement sleep that aids memory.”
- Finally, the all-nighter? Don’t do it. Studying all night without sleeping has been linked to lower test grades in educational studies.
Food. Eat it. Actually, there’s more to it than that. One of the absolute best things you can eat the morning before a test is… Oatmeal. Why? According to the article, “High-carb, high-fiber, slow-digesting foods,” are the best things to eat before a test. If you have an afternoon or evening class, you need to keep this in mind when choosing your lunch and dinner as well. Eating the right foods will fuel your brain and will help keep you energized and alert during your test.
Distractions. Get rid of them. No matter what you may think or have convinced yourself of, research shows that distractions have a negative effect on your memory. So when you’re taking a test trying to recall which body system has to do with the skin, and all you can recall are the lyrics to a Rihanna song… Well, obviously there is a problem.
Anxiety. According to the article, “an estimated 35% of students are so nervous before high-stakes tests that it impairs their performance.” Thankfully, there are ways you can calm your anxiety. For one thing, you can start imagining yourself performing well at something and applying that feeling when you picture yourself taking a test. If you practice enough, you can hold onto that feeling on test day. It also helps if you take 10 minutes to write down your worries. Studies have even been done on the effectiveness of this exercise. The article cites the results of one such study, which found that, “The anxious kids who did the writing exercise performed as well on the test as the students who had been calm all along. But anxious students who didn’t do the writing performed more poorly.”