Updated: Oct 3, 2019
Ever since a young age, I have strived for the perfect score on every exam. Some people consider me a “natural” test-taker, but I’ve learned as a tutor that these “natural” instincts are actually things that can be taught and learned. Without further adieu, here are my top 10 test-taking strategies:
1. Trust your gut. As cliché as it sounds, I am a firm believer that your first instinct is right and proper in most instances. There is a reason why one answer jumped out to you. Unless you can articulate why your first choice is incorrect, and another answer is the better choice, I highly recommend going with your gut.
2. Don’t be an SGS (Second Guessing Sally): See explanation above
3. Treat every single test question like it is the most important question on the test. Focus deeply on the question at hand. The biggest mistake students commit is that they are not able to shake off previous questions or they are apprehensive about upcoming questions. This can be fatal. Every question is do or die, and I’ve seen countless exams come down to one question.
Give every question the attention it deserves. Do not let a previous hard question affect an easy question in front of you.
4. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. The person who sped through the exam and finished an hour early probably did not do well on the exam.
5. Use the test to your advantage. You can learn informative things from the questions themselves. This is especially true on the LSAT on the logic games section. When you are able to find an answer by process of elimination, you have effectively learned something new that can help guide you on other test questions.
6. READ THE QUESTIONS CAREFULLY!!!! Most careless mistakes are committed by misreading the question. Also, make sure to read the answer choices carefully always to make sure you are answering the question being asked. A common error is when the questions asks, all of the following are true, except…. And people disregard the word except. Remember, every question counts. You cannot afford to be careless.
7. Rise to the occasion. Even Beyoncé gets nervous before a concert. Tom Brady has game-day jitters. It is normal to get anxious before a big exam, but the key is to use the adrenaline to your advantage and execute on test day.
8. Finish strong! My wrestling coach used always to say, “Most people die within a mile of being saved.” The difference between the good and the great is how we finish. I like to tell my students that your last section should be your best because once you cross the finish line, you can faint and sleep, or party, or whatever it is you like to do. Don’t leave anything on the field!
9. Utilize context clues. When you do not know a word or a definition, make an educated guess as to what it means and move confidently forward. For example, if you think a word means something, replace the word you don’t know with the word you think it is and continue. Don’t waste time praying for a definition to fall out of the sky.
10. Over-prepare. If you want it bad enough, you can do it. Outwork everyone else, and it doesn’t matter how “natural” of a test taker they are or how “smart” they are. Believe in yourself. The best way to reduce stress is to accomplish goals. Don’t stress-just study!