Sooner or later, most students are confronted with the necessity of taking some form of English examination. These tests include:
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
- Cambridge Examinations (First Certificate, CAE, Proficiency)
- University examinations
- On the Job examinations
- Examinations given by your teacher
As you have probably noticed, some students are more successful than others when taking such an examination. Often the more successful students are better prepared. However, sometimes students who do well have better test taking skills. These abilities really have nothing to do with understanding English better. They are strategic skills that make taking the test easier, and therefore provide better results.
Some General Guidelines
Here are some very important - and often ignored - guidelines to taking a test successfully.
Do not insist on completing each question before going to the next.
This is extremely important. If you spend a lot of time on one question that you don't understand there can be two negative outcomes:
Remember one question may only be worth one point, if you are not able to answer questions later because you have lost time you could lose more points!
Becoming nervous can make you lose your concentration and that leads to worse results.
- Losing time
If possible, go through the entire test answering the questions you are sure you know.
This results in your being more relaxed and feeling more confident.
Go through the test a second time working out the answers to more difficult questions.
Now you will feel more confident and this will improve your test taking. However, remember to not waste too much time on any one question.
Once you have gone through the test twice, see if any of the questions asked can help you answer those really difficult questions.
This is a little used trick. Sometimes questions asked are answered in later questions asking for different things. This should not be tried until you have finished the test and have some time remaining to try the questions you have had problems with again.
If you have a strong feeling about a question when you first answer it, don't go back and change it later.
Usually (but not always) a strong first impulse means we know the answer and we don't really have to think about it too much. Going back to think about it usually makes you unsure and often causes an error. This is very common so be very careful!
Play the odds
If you don't know the answer, write something. If you are answering a 4 possibility multiple choice question you will still have a 25% chance of being correct!
Do not cheat!!!
Taking a test is as much for you as it is for your teacher. If you cheat, you don't help yourself in the long run.
Specific Strategies for Specific Exercises