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Preparing to Take a Test

by Ron Kurtus (updated 28 February 2022)

Preparing to take a test is almost as important as actually taking the test.

You need to prepare mentally or psychologically. You need to prepare with knowledge of the subject. And finally, you must be in good physical condition to take the test.

Preparation in these three areas will give you an edge in achieving excellence.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Preparing mentally or psychologically

You must be mentally or psychologically prepared for a test, just like an athletic team must be mentally prepared for a big game.

Steps to take

There are several steps to take to mentally prepare for a test:

  1. The first step is to be motivated by the importance of test to you.
  2. Then set a goal of the type of grade you want to get.
  3. Next, be aware of the difficulty of test and the challenge it will present.
  4. Finally, be confident and sure of your knowledge of the subject matter and in your ability to perform in a test.

Then you are ready to do your best.

Learn from championship teams

The lesson from championship teams is that they never take a game or an opponent for granted. They realize the importance of each game and prepare the same way, whether the opponent is strong or weak. They have a goal of doing their best at all times and reaping the rewards from winning.

Some get overconfident

Some students get overconfident and don't prepare properly for the test. These students should check Avoid Goofing Up Tests for ways to rectify that situation.

Preparing your knowledge

Obviously, you should have learned the material well before the test. The preparations you make concerning your knowledge relates to reviewing the material. Different types of classes require different types of study.

Study of facts

If the purpose of a test is to determine how well you remember facts, don't study for it by trying to memorize everything. Rather, learn concepts and memorize key words.


Cramming is doing intense studying the night before a bog exam. Some students will stay up all night cramming for their exam.

John M. would goof around most of the semester. He never seemed to study until just before a test, when he would stay up all night. He received good grades because of his stamina and excellent short-term memory. However, afterwards, he usually forgot much of what he had learned.

Harvey took the same courses as his friend, John. He, too, would cram for the exam. But by midnight, he was exhausted and sometimes fell asleep at his desk. When he took the exam the next day, he was still tired and not thinking as clearly as he would have if he had gotten a good night's sleep.

Cramming may work for some students, but I don't recommend it myself.

Problem solving study

For tests in the sciences, doing a good job on your homework is usually the best way to prepare, since these tests often concern problem solving. Memorization for science tests doesn't work as well. Understanding is more important.

Preparing physically

Your physical condition affects your mental abilities. You should watch what you eat and drink before taking a test and get plenty of rest. Also, being in good physical shape allows for more blood to get to your brain.

Watch sugar and food

You want to be alert when you are taking a test.

Thus, it is not a good idea to have sugary drinks or a heavy meal before a test, because they can cause you to become sleepy during the test. Much of your blood goes to your stomach instead of your brain, where you really need the oxygen for thinking.

Get enough sleep the night before

Some students seem to be able to do well on a test after staying up all night, but most need a good night's sleep to be at their best. In general, if you are tired, you are not as effective as if you are well rested.

Get regular exercise

A person who gets regular physical exercise has a body and mind that uses its oxygen more effectively than someone completely out of shape. Even exercising a few days before a test can make a noticeable difference on your thinking powers.

Say no to alcohol

For college students old enough to drink, alcohol before a test is not a good idea. You should not have such drinks for at least three days before a test or your mind may be like mush.


Being good at tests is important. You can improve your test-taking abilities by knowing how to prepare for a test. This means to get yourself up psychologically and ready to perform at your best. Of course, you must study and know the material upon which you will be tested. Finally, you should be well-rested and mentally alert for the test.

The motto is to be prepared

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


Good Grades Resources


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Top-rated books on Study Skills

Top-rated books on Taking Tests in School

Questions and comments

If you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.

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