8 Biggest Test-Taking Misconceptions

Here are a few common misconceptions about standardized tests and mistakes that students make when taking them. Don't let them happen to you!

Tests like the ACT, SAT, and PSAT can be intimidating. However, there is no need to freak out. Here are a few common misconceptions about standardized tests and mistakes that students make when taking them. Don’t let them happen to you!

“These tests are all about the content”

What a lot of students don’t realize is that while an understanding of the content is important, they’re really being tested on their test-taking skills. The writers of these tests realize that most schools don’t have the same curriculums, so they have to write questions that are fair to everyone. This is why they provide readings, prompts, and data tables in the Reading, English, and Science sections. When studying, you should focus most of your time on math, as that requires the most prior knowledge.

“I should spend most of my time practicing and reviewing for my worst section”

While this may seem logical, it’s actually a bad studying technique. Every section is averaged together, so it is entirely possible to do poorly in one area and still get a great score if you do well in everything else. While you should make sure you’re comfortable with every section, make sure you practice your “good” sections too so you don’t miss any easy points.

“I’ll do better if I stay up studying the night before”

Again, because you are really being tested on skills, not content, you will do much better if you get an adequate amount of sleep. Aim for about eight hours.

“I’m going to need a large cup of coffee to get through this test”

If you drink coffee every morning, then go ahead and have a cup. However, if you never drink coffee or do only on a rare occasion, don't do it the morning of a major test. Coffee will make you hyper and may make it hard to focus, plus it could result in a crash. Don't take the risk.

“I should spend the most time on the harder questions”

Because every question is weighted equally, you will get the same amount of points for getting the hardest question on the test right as you will for the easiest. Therefore, don't waste your time trying to answer something you don't know. If a question has taken you more than 30 seconds and you don't think you'll be able to solve it in another 30 seconds, skip it and come back if there’s time.

Bonus tip: When you're looking at the answer choices, read up (from D–A). Questions will usually have at least one answer that seems right but isn't completely, and because we naturally look at the answers starting with A, they often put the misleading answer toward the top.

“I should read the passages in the English section before looking at the question”

Although the readings may be interesting, in some cases you may not even need to read the passage, and reading may actually be a waste of time. Questions in this section often give a line or paragraph to look at (i.e., “What does the word “___” most closely mean in line 16?”). Also, if you look at the questions and the answers first, you're more likely to recognize important information in the text because you’ll know what you're looking for.

“People will think I’m stupid if I have to constantly use my calculator”

Use all of the tools available to you, including your calculator. Chances are that everyone else will be too busy taking their own test to notice what you’re doing. If using a calculator makes you feel more comfortable, go ahead and use it.

“The writers of the test want me to fail!”

Although it may feel this way, this is not true. They simply want to find out what you know and how you comprehend information. Remember that the correct answer is somewhere on that page, and it’s just a matter of finding the right one.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:

About Elyse Baden

My name is Elyse Baden, and I am a junior at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois. I have been a member of my school newspaper for the past two years and am currently an editor. I am so excited to be a CollegeXpress writer!

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Jeannie Borin, MEd

Jeannie Borin, MEd

President and Founder, College Connections

I frequently visit CollegeXpress to answer questions from students and parents. There are countless hot topics in admissions that need to be addressed. I enjoy reading what my colleagues post and gain additional insight from different perspectives.

Mataya Mann

Mataya Mann

High School Class of 2022

To say that CollegeXpress is a helpful tool would be an understatement as it is much more than that. Before finding CollegeXpress, all I knew was that I wanted to go to college, it was going to be insanely expensive, and I felt lost. CollegeXpress has given me access to resources such as helpful tips for applications and scholarship [opportunities], and helped guide me in a direction where I feel confident moving forward and pursuing a career. CollegeXpress has helped instill a spark in me that makes me want to continue and supports me in doing so.

Aaliyah

Aaliyah

High School Class of 2022

My mother signed me up for a couple of scholarship contests through CollegeXpress. I was also able to do some research and compare the different schools on my list. I was able to see the graduation rates and different programs that helped me decide on Adelphi University. I will continue looking for some scholarships for my start in September.

Daniel Ogunlokun

Daniel Ogunlokun

High School Class of 2022

When I started looking at colleges in the beginning of my senior year, I was conflicted about which ones I wanted to attend based on safety, tuition costs, location, academic rigor, and prestige. Searching the internet and getting more questions than answers, I came across CollegeXpress, which made all the steps I had taken look like a minor issue. Everything was summarized and detailed, and I couldn't be more thankful and appreciative.

Mimi

Mimi

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has provided me with tips that were for college students, but as a high school junior, they were still very useful. Not only that, it also gave me an idea of what to expect when it comes to going to college or already being in college. I want to say thank you to CollegeXpress, and I hope you continue the wonderful tips until I hopefully get into college and throughout my college journey.

College Matches
X

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Miami University

Oxford, OH

Albright College

Reading, PA