Last Updated: Sep 22, 2020
All the way through high school and into college, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with tests—that is, I love it when they’re over and hate it when they’re still looming over me! Fortunately, however, with years of exams behind me, I’ve identified a few things that help me feel prepared for those terrifying test days. Following these five tips, test day won’t feel nearly as intimidating!
1. Study time
This one should be a given, but sometimes we don’t schedule out smart, strategic study time. For example, pulling an all-nighter to cram is a very poor strategy. Sure, some people can pull it off once in a while, but losing sleep actually makes it harder to retain info, not to mention makes you grumpy and less focused on your test day. Instead, be aware of how you retain material best. For my ITS class, I found it helpful if I re-typed my programs several times a week—that was around 10–15 minutes a day. However, for my history class, I was better off if I spent several hardcore hours reviewing the study guide nearer to the test day.
If you don’t know your study style yet, I would recommend that you plan to begin reviewing notes a week or two in advance of any test. Make sure to add into your daily schedule too—if not, “study time” will turn into “Starbucks and Netflix time.” (Trust me.) Finally, if you find yourself struggling with the material, include tutoring or meeting with your professor in this study time. Most tests will rely on your understanding of the material, not just your memorization of it!
2. A good night’s sleep
I know I sound like your mother, but it’s true! As I mentioned above, being tired on the test day is no fun. You’ll be much less focused and much more moody, and therefore you may struggle with actually taking the test. However, if you are well rested, you will feel much more prepared and confident. (And you’ll be able to remember everything you need to bring!) To make sure that you get the sleep you need, consider giving yourself a specific curfew, whether it’s 9:30 or 11:00. After this time, you need to be in bed, and that does not include scrolling through Tumblr! Some people believe that screen time can also affect how well you sleep and how quickly you fall asleep, so it could be a good idea to put away the laptop and phone half an hour or an hour before bed. Instead, get a shower, hang out with a friend, or pick up a book—those Marvel headcanons will still be there when you’ve rocked your test.
3. Your power outfit/comfortable shoes/your lucky charm/a pep talk
This one is all about what makes you feel confident. Personally, I feel way more prepared to succeed if I’m wearing my favorite outfit—even for an 8:00 am exam. However, some people are built up by other methods, like a pep talk, a chat with a friend, or a little quiet time. Not only will you do better on your exam when you feel sure of yourself, but you will be more prepared to face the whole day!
4. Multiple pencils
A low-tech tip, but an important one! Always bring at least two pencils to an exam, especially if it’s a long haul like the SAT or ACT. Even though the days of standardized tests are behind me, I’m still in the habit of bringing an extra pencil. You never know when something will go wrong with your first one, or when your neighbor will have forgotten to bring hers. That way, you won’t need to ask to stop the exam partway through or write your test in pen.
Note: Most professors have several extra pencils around just in case, but it’s always better to bring your own! You never know when theirs will be less sharp or with terrible erasers, and sometimes it’s not a room that they are used to, so it’ll be hard to get supplies.
5. The right attitude
In this girl’s humble opinion, a good attitude is the most important test-day accessory! As someone with mild test anxiety, I spent all of high school panicking over my tests and placing way too much weight on my performance. It’s hard to get over anxiety, but it’s important to try to stay as positive as possible. Remember that you are going to try your hardest, and that is all you can do! If you have studied, odds are you will do well, and even a mediocre score is not the end of the world. You aren’t defined by your final exam percentage, and you aren’t a better or a worse person depending on your test performance. If you keep up with studying and put your all into the test, you should be proud of yourself!
Let’s chat: how do you prepare for a test? Let us know on Twitter @CollegeXpress!