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Taking the Exam: 5 Test-Taking Tips

To follow my post on study tips, I would like to share some of my favorite test-taking tips I have picked up through the years. I have never considered myself a "good test-taker" and I am constantly trying to find new ways to approach exams. After many conversations with academic advisors and peers, and reading test-taking books, I have come up with a list of some things that have helped me improve my scores.

1. Conquer your test anxiety I have always struggled with test anxiety, but only recently tried to do anything about it. I started by identifying things that make my anxiety worse. Two major things, for me, are lack of sleep and caffeine. The night before an exam, I try to get a solid 6-8 hours of sleep. Pulling all-nighters are not an option for me. With a good night's rest, I am more likely to function without a cup of coffee. It might sound crazy to take a morning exam without caffeine to fuel me, but I know it will cause unnecessary anxiety, so I avoid it. After the exam is over, I bee-line it to the nearest coffee maker.

2. Read the question first This one is gold. In medical school, a lot questions involve a clinical vignette followed by a questions based on the information given. Avoid looking at the question stem or any of the answers and go straight to the actual question. Once you have read that, then go back and read the vignette. You are able to pick out key words and look for information that will specifically answer the question.

3. Do not change your answers Unless you are 100% sure another answer is correct, just don't do it. You have to be able to say why the original selection was wrong, and why the new answer is correct. If you cannot do that, do not change it. When reviewing exams, I always had a handful of incorrect answers that I had changed from the correct answers. This number has drastically decreased after I started following this simple rule.

4. Once the exam is over, it is over This isn't really a tip on taking the exam, but more of a personal rule I have on exam days. Once I leave the exam room, I do not talk about the questions with anyone. I know it can be so tempting to ask your friends what they put for a certain question, but it will only cause excess stress. You can't go back and change your answer, so there is really no point in discussing it. The exam is over, go enjoy the rest of your day!

5. Review your exams This might not always be an option, but if it is, do it! Even if you aced the exam, looking over the questions can help solidify the material in your brain. If you didn't do so hot, see if you can talk to the professor(s) about why you missed the question(s). They might even tell you better ways to approach their material and questions for the future! It will also give you an opportunity to get to know your faculty better, which never hurts. They are great resources and they are there to help you learn!

Have any test-taking tips that work for you? I would love to hear them!


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