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Be Good at Taking Tests

by Ron Kurtus (updated 28 February 2022)

A major part of your grade in class is determined from your test and final exam scores. Thus, it is vital that you not only understand and remember the important parts of the subject matter, but that you are good at taking tests.

Being able to do well in tests is a special skill, distinct from simply being smart or knowing the subject matter. Problems that students have include improper preparation, test anxiety, and working too slow.

You can become good at taking tests by thoroughly preparing for the test and by actually practicing test-taking. It is good to know what type of test will be given, so that you can focus in on the right techniques.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Importance of test-taking skill

A major part of your grade is determined from your test scores. Some teachers give their students numerous quizzes and tests, while others base most of the grade on a final exam.

You could be the smartest student in your class—leading discussions and doing well on your homework—but if you have problems taking tests, you simply will not get the grade you probably deserve.

Problems students have

Many students have problems concerning taking tests.

Poor preparation

Part of the skill in taking a test is in the preparation for the test. Trying to study all of the material covered is a poor way to prepare. It is called "cramming" for the test. There are also some students who aren't sure what is important and what may be on the test.

Of course, there are students who don't even bother to study for a test. That is just plain foolish.

Work too slow

Some students work on a test at a pace that is too slow to allow them to finish the test in time. They spend too much time on unimportant parts of the exam and take too much time in making a decision on an answer.

When the test time is almost up, they then rush, which can result in hasty or incorrect answers.

Test anxiety

Other students get so nervous before and during a test such that their minds seem to go blank and they can't remember what they had learned.

Improving test-taking skills

You should be well-prepared for taking a test or exam. Practicing taking tests is a good method to make yourself ready.

Prepare for test

Since the test is a special situation, you should prepare well ahead of time.

Instead of trying to study all of the material covered before the test, you should know specifically what to study. Taking notes in class and highlighting important parts of your textbook are useful methods. Also, look for clues from your teacher about what is important and may be in the test.

Kwane prepared for his Algebra exam the same way as he prepared for a singing competition. He knew what to study and what type of songs were required. Then he psyched himself up to be relaxed, but confident.

He did well in the exam and the competition.

You must prepare yourself mentally or psychologically, such that you are confident and ready to perform. You obviously must prepare yourself with knowledge of the subject, such that you understand the material and remember the facts. Finally, you should be physically and mentally prepared, so that you will be alert and at your best when taking the test.

Practice taking tests

When you take a test in school, you are usually working under the pressure of finishing the test in within a certain time limit. Also, you usually cannot look in your textbook or notes for information or an answer.

Since this can be a pressure-packed situation, it is a good idea to practice taking tests or to practice working under such conditions, so that you become adept at it.

One method is to practice doing homework exercises as if it was a test, setting a time limit for doing the homework exercises and not using notes or your textbook to help you with the answers.


Since your grades depend on your scores in tests and exams, being good at test-taking is important. Improper preparation, test anxiety and working too slow are reasons some students do poorly in tests. You can become good at taking tests by thoroughly preparing for the test and by actually practicing test-taking.

Become confident in being able to perform under the pressure of a test

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


Good Grades Resources


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Top-rated books on Taking Tests in School

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