Lessons Learned in Test Taking

Today marks my second test in Math. Well, if you want to get technical – the first “test” was actually a quiz, and today was the first official exam. I think I did alright, requiring the calculator only to check my answers.

I was feeling fairly confident to begin with, though only doubt was that my ego was leading me astray.

However, tips and things that I have learned for test taking and preparations:

  1. Acquire a small whiteboard for studying.
    I feel extremely guilty using all the paper that I do for working problems out, and I can only use so much scrap paper. So, yesterday I went to the Dollar Tree and got myself a cruddy little white board that even came with a white board pen – all for $1.09 (tax, you see). With it I was able to do all the problems I wanted, then erase them and do them again.
    I feel a little juvenile using it from time to time, especially when I’m trying to put it to use on the bus, but it is definitely a handy tool.
  2. Your calculator should only be check your answers, not do the work for you.
    I know this is for math specifically (unless you have some incredibly creative literature classes), but it holds some importance. If you cannot do the problem without the calculator then you’re missing the lesson completely and will be marking the beginning of a long time of confusion. Can you multiply your fractions? can you figure out what .0076 time 9,000 is? If you know how to do these things, then do them, then check the answer.
  3. A test is just graded practice.
    If you treat the test as any other homework assignment, then it takes the pressure off a little. After all, isn’t it just more problems/situations to display what you’ve learned?
  4. Check, Check and Double Check
    I am the queen of saying Screw It! to going back over my work – as you may have noticed in my blogging. However, with today’s math test, I felt that I breezed through it. Though, as an extra precaution, I went back and re-did every single problem on a separate piece of paper to see if I got the same answer. A couple times I didn’t, and by comparing the two I was able to see the silly mistakes that I am prone to making.
  5. Don’t be afraid to come back to a question
    You always hear this from teachers, especially in reference to taking the SATs. It gets to the point where it almost sounds like it’s an annoying buzzing in your ear. However, when we’re stuck on a question or problem, our minds get stuck in a loop, get trapped in a box. We know that somewhere in our brains is the ability to come up with the answer, we just can’t figure it out. We go over each word over and over, each symbol, reminding ourselves what each things means under our breath, but cannot for the life of us figure out just what the Hell the damn answer should be.
    When you move on to another problem or question, it’s like hitting the reset button. Your brain acknowledges that whatever it was thinking before may not be applicable to the new question or problem. Doing enough problems will put enough time and space between the stubborn brain and the stubborn problem, and gives you the chance to look at it again with new eyes.
    Is it the last problem of the test? Don’t worry – go back and do your double–checking of the rest of your work on the test and then come back to the last problem.
  6. If you’re having jitters before the test and can’t really figure out just what you’re supposed to know – talk to your teachers. They want you to succeed, and talking them might  get you some one on one time for some extra understanding, or they can point you in the direction of some good resources to help you better understand the material.
  7. Writing things down. Then Write Them Again.
    You know at the beginning of the Simpsons where you see Bart writing the same phrase over and over on the blackboard? There’s a reason for that, you know. Writing things down, especially repeticiously, helps commit it to memory. This is where that handy purchase of a white board comes in handy – you can write it down over and over again without wasting paper.
  8. Eat Well The Morning Of
    Each test day I get up and eat something healthy and protein packed. My usual base is brown rice with a fried egg on top with nutritional yeast. It varies depending on what vegetables I have in the fridge. This morning it was Brussels sprout, pan-fried in vegan butter before being stirred in with my rice. This is good brain food.

What are your study habits and tips?

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