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Top 15 Test-Taking Tips

I’m sure there are a number of things you’d rather be doing than taking a standardized test – getting your neck-skin caught in a zipper, dropping a brick on your foot, getting all of your molars pulled. You know – things that sound way more fun than sitting at a computer monitor staring at the analytical section of the GRE. In case you decide to forego major bodily damage in favor of scratching out a few answers to multiple-choice questions, read these general test-taking tips before you head to the testing facility.

1. Prepare

You’ll feel much better if you know what you’re up against. Take a class, hire a tutor, buy the book, go online. Prep before you go, so you’re not riddled with anxiety about what’s coming.

2. Know the Procedures

Memorize the test directions beforehand, because direction-reading time counts against your testing time.

3. Eat Protein

You may feel nauseous before a test, but studies prove that eating protein before completing a brain-draining task like test-taking can improve your score. A good choice? Try a turkey and cheese omelet.

4. Wear Cozy Clothes

Test day is not the time to squeeze into your super-skinny jeans. If you’re uncomfortable, your brain will expend precious energy bothering you to fix the problem. Go with your favorite broken-in jeans or sweats in case the air is cranking.

5. Exercise

Speedy legs = speedy brain. Research shows that exercise can improve the performance of the brain by boosting memory and processing speed. Cool, huh?

6. Practice Yoga

It’s not just for granola-lovers. Yoga greatly helps your body de-stress, and high levels of stress can negatively affect your test performance. So, kick off your shoes, take a deep breath, and swan-dive into the downward dog.

7. Create Your Environment

At the testing site, select a seat away from the door and near the back of the room (fewer interruptions). Avoid the air conditioning vent, pencil sharpener, and the coughers. Bring a bottle of water to avoid having to get up if you’re thirsty.

8. Start Easy

If you’re taking a pencil-and-paper test, answer all the easy questions first, and leave the longer reading sections until last. You’ll gain confidence and extra points.

9. Paraphrase

If you’re don’t understand a tough question, try rephrasing it or reordering the words to help it make sense.

10. Cover the Answers

On a multiple-choice test, answer the question in your head with the choices covered. Once you’ve made a guess, uncover the answers and see if you can find a paraphrase of what you just thought.

11. POE

Use a process of elimination to get rid of answers you know are wrong, like answers using extremes (always, never), generalizations, and anything that seems “off.”

12. Use Your Pencil

Physically cross off wrong answer choices so you won’t be tempted to reconsider them. You’ll increase the probability of getting the answer correct if you can get rid of even one choice.

13. Trust Yourself

Your instincts are usually right; at the end of the exam when you’re reviewing the multiple-choice answers you’ve selected, don’t change anything. Statistically, your first choice is the correct answer.

14. Make it Legible

If your handwriting has ever been compared to chicken scratch, go back through your written answers and rewrite any word that could be inscrutable. If a scorer can’t read it, you won’t be getting points for it.

15. Cross-Check Ovals

It can happen to you – you’ve finished the test and realize you skipped a question or oval completely. Make sure your questions and ovals all line up, or you can end up failing the test on a technicality.