Test-taking strategies. As a university student, you have to take a lot of tests. You can do better and feel less stressed about them if you know some tips. Many students experience test anxiety and nervous or stressed out feeling before a test. There are many causes of this feeling. Here are some of the causes and suggestions for what to do to help you feel less anxious. I'm not ready. Many students feel unprepared on test day. How can you prevent that feeling? First, you can start to prepare early. You know tests are coming, so start getting ready throughout the term. Keep good notes and review them often. Space out your study. Studying for a short time, several times a week is much more effective than trying to cram all night just before the test. As you study, try to predict the kinds of questions that might be on the test and practice answering them. Test questions are generally based on either the textbook or class lectures. This is why your notes are so important. If there have been assignments or practice tests, review those too. I'm going to fail. Some students may be afraid that they won't do well on the test. Maybe they haven't done well on tests before, or maybe they really need a good score to bring up their grade. It's natural to want to do well, of course. But feeling like you need to be perfect can put so much stress on you that you actually do worse. After all, nobody is perfect. Tell yourself that you've prepared well and you're just going to do the best you can. Let go of the past. Don't think about tests that didn't go so well, and instead focus on what you can do right now to do well on this test. I'm so tired. Did you stay up all night studying the night before the test? Feeling sleepy and tired during the test isn't going to help. Try to get a good night sleep the night before. Eat a good breakfast. Don't go into the test hungry. Drink enough water but avoid too much caffeine, and if you get a little exercise before the test, it might help get rid of that nervous energy so you can feel calmer. On the day of the test, be sure to bring all the materials you'll need, pencils or pens and eraser, a calculator, whatever is required for the test you're taking. It's good to bring a watch too, so you can keep track of the time. Plan to get to the classroom early so you won't have to rush in at the last minute. Finally, don't panic. Take deep breaths and focus on positive encouraging thoughts. You can do this. When you get the test paper don't start answering questions right away. Look over the test. How many questions are there and what types? How many points is each section worth? Now plan your time. How much time should you spend on each section or each question? If some questions are worth more points than others, make sure you have enough time for those. Try to save some time at the end of the test to check your work and make sure you haven't forgotten anything. Next, read the directions very carefully. Even if it's a familiar type of test, don't assume that it's exactly the same as tests you've taken before. There could be something unusual in the directions. Where and how should you write your answers? Do you need to show your work? Do you need to answer all the questions or is there a choice? Don't forget to write your name on the paper. What if you come to a question you can't answer? Don't let it bother you too much. Skip the question for now and come back to it later if you have time, keep moving on so you have time to try all the questions. There are several types of questions that you might find on tests. Multiple choice questions are probably the most common. These start with a question or a sentence with a blank to be filled in, called the stem. Then there are several answer choices and you have to choose the best one. In these questions, first read the stem carefully, make sure you understand what it's asking. If you want circle keywords to help you focus on the meaning. Before you look at the answer choices, try to think of the answer you expect, then look at the answer choices and see if that answer is one of them. Choose the answer that most closely matches the answer you were thinking of. Be sure to read all the answer choices, even if you think the first one is correct. There might be a better answer later. If you're not sure about the answer to a question, first, reject the answers you know are wrong. Then try reading the stem with each of the other answers. Think of each of these choices as a true/false question. Then choose the one that sounds best or seems like the most true. Sometimes the last answer choices, all of the above or none of the above. For example, if the question is blank, is a type of bird, and the first three choices are an eagle, a penguin, and an ostrich, the fourth choice, all of the above is the one to pick. If you read too quickly and choose an eagle, you'd be technically correct, an eagle is a bird. But you'd miss the question because the instructor wants answer D, all of the above. Or the first answer choices are a frog, a horse, and a snake. Obviously they're all wrong, so you choose D, none of the above. Read all the answer choices very carefully before choosing an answer. Should you guess if you're not sure about the answer? If there's no penalty for guessing, if points are not taken off for wrong answers, go ahead and guess. It couldn't hurt. If points are subtracted for wrong answers as they are on some standardized tests, it's better not to guess. True/false questions are also common on tests. These can be tricky. Read the whole question very carefully. If it's mostly true, but one-bit is incorrect, it's still false. Also, be careful of absolutes like always, never, every or all. If there's even one exception to the statement, mark it false. A true statement must be totally, completely true. On many tests, you'll mark your answers on a fill in the bubbles answer sheets such as a Scantron. Some instructors will ask you to bring your own answer sheet. This information should be in the class syllabus. You can usually by Scantrons at the university bookstore. Be sure you also have the right kind of pencil with soft number 2 lead and a good eraser. Mark your answers carefully filling in the whole answer space, and make sure you're marking the correct answer space that matches the question. If you accidentally skip a line, all the rest of the questions will be off. Finally, let's talk about essay questions. These questions ask you to write a pager more about a given topic or prompt. Your answer may not have a formal essay structure, but it should still be well-developed and present your ideas in a logical order. Read the instructions on the prompt carefully. If you see several questions, check whether you have to answer them all or if you have a choice of which ones to answer. Plan your time so you can finish all the questions you need to answer. Take a few minutes to plan your essay before you start to write. Think about what you've learned from readings and lectures. Make quick notes of what you want to put in. Keep the question in mind as you write and focus your answer on what it asks. You won't be able to include everything you know. Just answer the question. Don't write empty fluff just to make your essay longer. The reader will know you're just trying to fill up space. Although you're not writing a formal essay, your answer should have a clear structure. Start with an introduction of one or two sentences, including a statement of your main idea and a couple of key words from the question. Your body paragraphs should each have one main idea with plenty of support, explanations, examples, reasons, and details. End with a short summary of your ideas. You'll take dozens of tests of all kinds during your university career. Stay calm, prepare early, and use good test-taking strategies to help you succeed.