Study Hut Tutoring

 
 

Test Taking Strategies

At the Study Hut, we treat tests like lab dissections. In its enormity, the body of a whole test is intimidating, complex, seemingly unconquerable. But take it apart and you’ll see the craftsmanship. Each part performs a function, and these functions intersect to handle bigger tasks. The test is not only an academic ritual — it is a metaphor for life: in life, as in school, we are constantly put to the test to see if we can assemble individual pieces of knowledge and wisdom into a large, working body of understanding. Quick,now! The proverbial gun is pointed at your head — What is your favorite movie, and why? Which of the Seven Deadly Sins are you most likely to commit? If you could have dinner with any person, real or fictitious, living or dead, whom would you choose, and why? Granted, the gun is usually not involved, but you get the point.

Test Taking Strategies

Many a student comes to us who is very bright and performs very well on homework assignments, but who feels like a blindfolded monkey with a pencil in his mouth when it comes to tests in desperate need of test taking strategies. If you are this student, now is the time to ask for help, as tests are not likely to disappear from your academic routine soon. We will guide you through eight steps designed to take you from the hundred-yard dash of homework to the marathon of a full-length test.

Test Taking Strategies

  1. Assess. That is, identify the problem. We need to know what is broken in order to fix it.
  2. Set goals. Concrete, realistic goals are necessary. What is yours? Is it a B+, a knockout essay, a perfect multiple choice score? We must sketch the target before you can aim for it.
  3. Identify question types. This skill is both specific and universal: specific, in that question types vary by subject; and universal, in that classifying questions allows you to break a test into manageable pieces. You’ll feel far more confident if you know what kinds of knowledge you have to employ for each type.
  4. Design strategies. This is when we take a microscope to each question type. What is the question really asking? Where are the embedded hints? If you learn this strategy, questions seem to answer themselves, and your job is simply to do the grunt work.
  5. Manage time. Test-taking is economics. Even the smartest students have limited intellectual resources. You must learn how to use those resources to the greatest effect within the constraint of time. Do you save the hardest questions for last? Do you answer multiple choice first and free response afterward, or vice versa?
  6. Master multiple choice. This is a test format of inherent advantages and well-disguised traps for the student. With us you’ll learn skills such as how to play the questions off each other — how to find the answer to #45 hinted at in question #23 — how to eliminate the obvious filler answers, and how to identify the nuances that distinguish the correct answer from the almost-correct answer (which on a multiple choice test is unfortunately the wrong one).
  7. Tame free response. Free response and essay questions are enemies of the student trying to keep his cool and manage his time. You needn’t be paralyzed by the stress of writing under pressure, though. We’ll teach you how to break your thoughts into smaller pieces, then structure them, so that the act of writing is merely a matter of fleshing out ideas into prose.
  8. Practice. And again, and again. Rote exercise synthesizes all your hard-earned skills.

An old proverb goes: If you know the devil you are dancing with, you won’t forget the steps. The academic test is one such demon: calculating, intimidating, but completely knowable. We have been dancing with him for some time. Occasionally, he surprises our students with a trick move, but often enough they have figured out how to upstage him.

Test Taking Strategies