We’ve all had to sit a test at some time in our lives, some we feel better about than others. I feel like there are four ways to feel going into a test.
- Totally confident. Minimal preparation done because there is no need. I am the King.
- I’ve put in the work. I’m really proud of the revision and preparation that I’ve done. Bring it on.
- Quickly get me in there to take this test. I’ve crammed in so much information that at any moment it’s going to fall out of my head because it’s only just hanging in there.
- What test? I didn’t even know we had one… what’s it on?
Unfortunately, regardless of how you go into the test, it doesn’t necessarily predict how you will feel after it. We can do all the preparation in the world and feel stuck in test conditions.
So, I’ve put together a no BS guide to feeling good about every test that you take. When you get stuck on a question, these are some things you can do when you don’t know what to do!
Read the question over and over again
I recommend doing this anyway, even if you aren’t stuck! Far too often we don’t read questions properly and put down the wrong answer, even when we know the right one. Small words can trick us, and sometimes questions are worded backwards to test you. So it is really helpful to read the question more than once!… or twice.
Break the question down
After reading the question maybe once or twice, and by once or twice I mean maybe a couple of hundred times (lol), it can help to either underline or highlight words. For example, look at the following maths question: a farm has 4 paddocks. Which one is the largest? The key word to take note of here is largest. This is where we can make easy mistakes by not reading questions properly. So highlighting helps to make sure we are paying attention to the most important words. And if not, we make it look like we know what we are doing with all of our fancy highlighting.
Eliminate wrong answers
Eliminating wrong answers works best for multiple choice questions. When we read a question and think to ourselves wtf, we can work backwards by figuring out which answers are wrong. We might not know the right answer, but we can eliminate one or two options that aren’t. Then, we have two answers left and our chances are down to 50:50, instead of a one in four stab in the dark.
Have an educated guess
Ok, so you’ve read the question more than once, you’ve highlighted key words to try to understand the question better and feel good knowing you’ve been proactive about trying to break it down, and you’ve even tried to think about what the wrong answer would be to leave you with the right one. The next option you have is to have a guess.
Guess what mark you get when you leave a question blank? That’s right. A big fat zero. Donuts.
Guess what mark you might get when you have a guess or write at least something down? Not sure, but it could be half a mark or even more. You don’t know. You might even get it all right. But you won’t know unless you have a go, and you certainly won’t get anything if it is left blank.
Feel good, knowing you have done your best
Regardless of how well you did, walk away from the test knowing you have done your best. Know that you’ve used effective problem solving strategies to get the best results you could. There is no point wishing you did more or less preparation, or even different revision, because that ship has sailed. It is pointless thinking about it because we can’t change it. All we can do is do the best we can with the knowledge that we have at the time. So add these new tools to your basket, and pull them out when you get stuck during a test. After the test, you can then learn from your preparation to guide your revision strategies in the future. Ask yourself, which out of the four people do you want to be going into the test? I know which one I would like to be, and sometimes that means I need to work for it.
Everyone performs different under pressure and stress, but remember, stress is a good thing that prepares our body for challenges.
Before a test, one group of students were asked to imagine and pretend that they are professors and know all the answers on the test. The other group of students had neutral thoughts, or thought about how hard the test will be regardless of the amount of revision they had done. Guess which group of students performed better? If you were thinking it was the students who imagined they were professors, you were right.
We can trick ourselves into feeling confident for a test, and according to research, this makes us perform better!
How do you usually prepare for a test?
When you get stuck on a question, do you feel better knowing there are still some things you can do?
Which one of the four people do you want to be when you have your next test? What do you have to do to get there?