student life


Test-Taking Strategies

Written by Angelys Centeno

Preparation is just one of many test-taking strategies for students. Walsh (2015) reveals that preparation is key to passing tests. Preparing for tests can be time-consuming because students generally don’t know what will be tested. Therefore, students should create enough time for preparation. They need time to study key concepts, commit to refresher courses and read through publications and manuals. Moreover, students need time to practice problems, work, and time for family and friends. Time is crucial in preparing for tests. Hence, Walsh (2015) suggests that students should begin preparing for tests as soon as possible. Early preparation builds students’ confidence for test-taking.

Self-assessment is also essential for test-taking. Students should begin performing a self-assessment once the exam date is confirmed. Walsh (2015) states that self-assessment can be done using tests related to the course and rating knowledge of the subject matter. This way, students evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and adjust accordingly before the actual test-taking date. Once students perform self-assessment, they should register for refresher courses, which are a valuable resource for test preparation (Walsh, 2015). In addition to refresher courses, students should read, review, solve practice problems, and take practice exams. Walsh (2015) suggests that students should also consider tutoring as a strategy for exam preparation. In essence, Walsh (2015) observed that tutoring allows students to cover challenging areas and gain more confidence for taking the test.

Students who prepare for tests early are more likely to excel than others. Academic success requires preparation and resource utilization, which enhances students’ confidence. Walsh (2015) says that confidence eliminates text anxiety that is caused by uncertainty and fear regarding the subject material. Thus, more preparation builds more confidence for test-taking.  

Most importantly, students should understand instructions before taking tests. Sullivan et al. (2020) observed that students are often overwhelmed when reading test instructions for the first time. However, thorough reading helps them understand the instruction and reduce anxiety. Students are often anxious about tests because they don’t know what exactly is on the test (Sullivan et al., 2020). Reading through the test more than twice helps students understand the test. Hence, Sullivan et al. (2020) encourages students to read the directions carefully to avoid mistakes that would lead to failure.

Before answering the questions, students should ensure that they understand all the requirements. Sullivan et al. (2020) found that some students rush to answer the questions and later realize that they haven’t met the requirements. For example, a test may require students to choose specific questions, but the person ends up answering all the questions because they didn’t identify the requirement. Sullivan et al. (2020) encourage students to go through the questions slowly to grasp all the requirements. This way, students avoid skipping important instructions and assuming that they know what the question asks.


Sullivan, B., Dunn, K., & Berry, V. (2020). Test preparation: An international comparison of test takers’ preferences. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice28(1), 13-36.

Walsh, K. (2015). How to pass exams: evidence-based advice?. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine98(6), 294-294.


Angelys Centeno

Student Ambassador