Column: Tips For Successful Test Taking

by Emmajo Yarbrough

Who derives pleasure from testing?

Not many people right now, especially after state testing season.

However, one veteran Epic educator says she knows the key to overcoming test stress:


“You do need to practice as if you’re going to perform,” said Kristi Rich, Epic Family Engagement co-director, who offered several important tips on test preparation.

“If you are going to perform in a play, you’re going to have to memorize your lines,” she said. “You’re going to have to practice them several times. You’re going to have to show up to dress rehearsals, so that you can perform on the day of the play.”

  1. Brain practice
    “You have to practice in order to do it well, and so it’s important to get your brain ready,” she said. This includes:
  • Practice with flashcards or other memory aids to review
  • Practice getting ready on time to take a test
  • Practice sitting in a quiet space like you would for a test
  • Practice sample tests in a quiet place, like a library or school
  • Practice taking timed tests by setting a time limit

“If you’re a basketball player, you don’t just show up to the game,” she said, “and you’ve never practiced dribbling the ball, or shooting the ball, or running and passing and knowing the rules of the game. So the same thing works for your brain.”

“The more familiar you can become with taking a test, in a particular format, the better prepared you will be,” Rich said.

  1. Body practice
    “Getting your body ready is similar to your brain,” she said. “It’s all actually interconnected.” For example:
  • Adjust your sleep schedule to allow time to get ready
  • Practice sitting in an uncomfortable chair
  • Practice sitting for an extended period of time
  • Practice sitting and working in a very quiet environment
  • Eat a good meal before the test

“You need to prepare yourself, both mentally and physically, for the day of testing,” Rich said.

“Be sure to get a good breakfast, so that you are more focused and well energized – because if you don’t eat, your brain starts to eventually have less energy. And get a good night’s sleep.”

“Practice it like you’re gonna perform it,” she said. “Do a dress rehearsal, if you will, a few times in a row: Make sure that you’re getting up on time, getting ready, getting fed, getting there and doing what you’re supposed to – and getting familiar with the environment.”

  1. Review practice
    “Reviewing for a test is not easy,” said Rich, “but you can make it better by using flashcards and sitting alone in a library or somewhere quiet, so that you are mentally and physically ready for that exam.”
    However, she said, “the best way to be ready is by drilling that knowledge into your brain.”
    This includes:
  • Take several online practice tests
  • Get review books and materials
  • Read the material with a review packet
  • Review the material with flashcards
  • Review with a partner, and quiz each other

“Reviewing will make your brain focus more on the test,” she said. “You want to make sure you are prepared for a long exam by studying.”

Test times may vary, Rich said, “but it is best to be prepared, because you never know how long each section will take, and you have a certain amount of allotted time to do a certain subject.”

“If you’re taking a college entrance exam like an ACT or an SAT, your prep time is going to be quite a bit longer, because the content covers multiple subject areas. And so there’s more practice tests that you would have to take. It’s a much longer test.”

“If you are preparing for just, say, an end-of-the-year state test in math, it will take less time to practice because it’s covering one content area.”

In conclusion, she said, test taking requires concentration and focus. Like with other things in life, individuals have learned that preparation is the key to success.

“It can be very challenging to be successful if you show up for a test on a particular day, and you’ve not prepared,” she said.

Above: A Tulsa VLC student reviews on his laptop in preparation for a state test later that week (Karma Reed/ENN).

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