Containing Test Anxiety

  • Be well prepared for the test.
  • Include as much self-testing in your review as possible.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: get enough sleep, good nutrition, exercise, some personal “down” time, and reasonable amount of social interaction.
  • As you anticipate the exam, think positively, e.g. “I can do OK on this exam. I’ve studied and I know stuff.”
  • Engage in “thought stopping” if you find that you are worrying a lot, comparing yourself to your peers, or thinking about what others may say about your performance on this exam.
  • Before you go to bed on the night before the exam, organize anything that you will need for the exam – pen, pencil, ruler, eraser, calculator, etc. Double check the time of exam and the location.
  • Set the alarm clock and then get a good night’s sleep before the exam.
  • Get to the exam on time – not too late but not too early.
  • Be cautious about talking to other students about the exam material just before going into the exam, especially if this will make you more anxious.
  • Sit in a location in the exam room where you will be distracted as little as possible.
  • As the papers are distributed, calm yourself by taking some slow deep breaths.
  • Make sure to carefully read any instructions on the exam.
  • As you work on the exam, focus only on the exam, not on what other students are doing or on thinking about past exams or future goals.
  • If you feel very anxious in the exam, take a few minutes to calm yourself. Stretch your arms and legs and then relax them again. Do this a couple of times. Take a few slow deep breaths. Do some positive internal self-talk; say to yourself, “I will be OK, I can do this.” Then direct your focus on the test; associate questions to their corresponding lecture and/or chapter.
  • If the exam is more difficult than you anticipated, try to focus and just do your best. It might be enough to get you through with a reasonable grade!
  • When the exam is over, treat yourself. If you don’t have any other commitments, maybe you can take the night off. If you have to study for other exams you may have to postpone a larger break, but a brief break may be the “pick up” that you need.

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Essay Exam Strategies

  • Use an erasable pen - Remember, neatness does count.
  • Outline the answer before writing your essay - Use the inside cover of the blue book and write down the information you know and then number it in the order of writing your essay.
  • Make sure you have an introductory paragraph - In this paragraph you want to make sure that you explain the point of your essay answer (i.e., your thesis statement).
  • Write a concluding paragraph to summarize your essay - This reinforces the points you made within the essay. It should be somewhat similar to your introductory paragraph.
  • Use your strongest point first in your essay answer - This is to grab the reader's attention immediately.
  • Underline the key words in your essay question/statement - By doing this you will be able to look back quickly to see if you are answering the question.

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Useful Terms To Know on Essay Exams

  • Analyze - Break into separate parts and discuss or interpret.
  • Compare - Examine qualities or characteristics in order to discover resemblances. This usually refers to similarities more than differences.
  • Contrast - Show differences between two or more ideas, topics, concepts, etc.
  • Criticize - Make judgments as to a given topic or evaluate its worth by backing up your statement with specific examples.
  • Define - Give a clear, specific meaning.
  • Describe - Give a detailed account. Include characteristics and qualities.
  • Diagram - Present a chart, plan, or graphic representation.
  • Discuss - Examine an issue and present or argue its pros and cons with details and examples.
  • Enumerate - List several ideas, aspects, events, reasons, etc.
  • Evaluate - Give your opinion or the opinion of an expert. Include both advantages and limitations.
  • Explain - Clarify and interpret material presented, state "who," "what," "where," and "why."
  • Illustrate - Give concrete examples.
  • Interpret - Comment upon, give examples, and describe relationships.
  • Justify - Give reasons or prove.
  • List - Present an itemized series.
  • Outline - Give main points and necessary supplementary material, omitting details.
  • Prove - Support with facts of evidence.
  • Relate - Show how things interconnect.
  • State - Explain precisely.
  • Summarize - Give the main points or facts in condensed form.
  • Support - Back up statements with facts and proof.
  • Trace - Show the order or progress of events.

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  • Matching is an exercise in recalling memorized information. The tests are divided into two columns. Items on the left side are usually matched with responses on the right side.
  • Ask if you can use alternatives more than once.
  • Do not match if you are not sure.
  • Take each entry in turn in the left column and try to think of the answer before reading the choices.
  • Choose the best answer and mark the answer sheet according to the directions.
  • Narrow down the field by completing those answers you know are correct.
  • Avoid changing answers.

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Multiple Choice Questions

  • Break the question into the stem or phrase and alternatives or choices.
  • Underline key terms and clue words in the stem.
  • Read the question several times; be sure to understand the stem before choosing an answer.
  • If you run into vague terminology, define it in your own terms.
  • Think of a correct answer, then look for it among the alternatives.
  • Use a comprehensive process of elimination:
  • - Read all the alternative choices (don't jump on the first seemingly correct one).
    - Compare them.
    - Eliminate the ones that are obviously wrong.
    - Relate the alternatives back to the stem.
    - Narrow your choice to two; then compare them to see how they differ.
    - Think about which alternative relates most closely to the book and class discussion.
    - Treat "all of the above," "none of the above," or "A, B, not C" as a true/false item and relate it closely to the stem.
  • When you don't know the answer:
  • - Don't waste time on one question.
    - Mark the question in the margin and move on.
    - Return to marked items as time allows.
    - Later information will sometimes help you to answer a skipped question.
  • Check to be sure that all questions are answered. Don't leave any blanks unless there is a penalty for guessing.
  • Check that your answers are in the correct place on any separate answer sheet.
  • Stick with your first answer unless you recognize that it is clearly not correct - studies show that changed answers are more frequently wrong!

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Fill-in-the-Blank Questions

This test item also requires recalling specific types of information. Unlike the multiple choice and matching question, you must supply the appropriate word or number to complete the entry.

  • Look for clues (e.g., grammar, tenses).
  • Use common sense.
  • Choose the best word.
  • Pay attention to the length of line give or to the number of lines.
  • Read through after you answer to make sure it sounds right.

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True/False Questions

  • Read the question to see if it makes sense as it stands.
  • Pick out key words; Know their meanings/definitions.
  • Watch for qualifying words: not, all, none, never, almost, probably, always.
  • Make sure there is not contradictory information in the question.
  • Think of reasons why the statement would be true or false.
  • Think about whether the statement is always true; if there is an exception, then it is probably false.

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