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Taking Exams


Why work on test-taking skills?

 

You must perform adequately on tests to receive credit for your coursework.

To receive financial aid, your test scores must be appropriate.

Admission to graduate school depends on your test scores.

Many professions require tests for promotion. Some require your passing tests even to remain employed (CPA’s for instance, and medical librarians).

 

"The research literature supports the idea that special instruction in preparing for and taking a test can lead to higher scores" (Wark & Flippo 1991, 295). Some of the findings are:

 

Instruction in test-taking improves retention (Marshall, 1981)

Chicano students’ grades improve if taught better study and test taking skills (Arroyo, 1981)

Black students’ grades improve with instruction on test taking (Evans, 1977)

Scores on SAT improve with test practice and training (Slack & Porter, 1980)

Scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) are improved with test-taking instruction (Evans, 1977; Swinton & Powers, 1983).

 

Conclusions:

 

You can improve your scores significantly by studying test-taking and preparation methods.

Following directions correctly is critical

Making good use of time is a key to good scores

Using answer sheets correctly is also critical

 

Study Skills (Wark & Flippo 1991, 328-9)

 

TIME SCHEDULING

 

Setting personal priorities in planning study time

Setting aside time for review and practice

 

SPACED vs. MASSED REVIEW

 

Massed sessions are better for reading and integration

Spaced sessions are better for new material and motor learning

 

MEMORY

 

Imagery and association techniques

Mnemonic systems

Effects of recitation on retention

 

EFFECTS OF STRESSORS ON TEST PERFORMANCE

 

Sleep loss

Drugs

Test anxiety

 

 

Summary of test-taking Techniques (Wark & Flippo 1991, 330)

 

USE OF TIME

 

Read all directions carefully

Plan time for review at the end

Skip difficult items and go back to them later

Change any answer if it seems appropriate to do so

 

GUESSING

 

If there is no penalty for wrong answers, guess

Even if there is a penalty, if one or more alternatives can be eliminated, guess

 

 

Suggestions for relieving test anxiety (Wark & Flippo 1991, 331-2; see especially Hembree, 1988)

 

Use deep muscle relaxation. Use tapes. Once you are relaxed, imagine preparing for the test, going to the test, and taking the test in a calm, confident state of mind.

 

Cognitive self-instruction… Learn to be aware of negative internal self-talk. Practice a self-support script.

 

Behavioral self-control techniques… Schedule time for studying and then follow your schedule.

 

Improve study skills. As you improve your confidence will increase and your anxiety will decrease.

 

Practice test wiseness… Focus on instruction. KNOW what you are doing. Learn methods of guessing and noting clues.

 

Test Wisdom

 

"Test wiseness is a collection of skills and possibly traits that enable certain students to score well, more or less independent of their knowledge of the information being tested. How can that happen? Test wise students develop test taking strategies which they transfer to similar tests. They know how to take advantage of clues left in questions by some item writers. They know that if they change their answers after some reflection, they will generally improve their scores. They never leave questions blank when there is no penalty for guessing" (Wark & Flippo 1991, 302).

 

Strategies of high-scoring students (Wark & Flippo 1991, 303):

 

Know the material well enough to go through the test quickly

Go back through the test slowly, checking, changing, and verifying each answer (subsequent questions may have triggered a memory or given you a clue which you can now use)

Consider all alternative answers

Analyze and eliminate incorrect alternatives to help determine the correct answer

Skip questions you are unsure of—return to them later.

In multiple choice, evaluate each alternative answer as true or false

In essay questions, re-phrase the question, quote books and articles, express opinions similar to those of the instructor

The correct answer is apt to be more complete and therefore longer than the alternatives. So look hard at any answers which are longer

Be sensitive to cues in the question (technical words, length of answer, etc.)

The myth that your first answer is likely to be correct is false. "Research indicates that changing answers produces higher test scores" (Wark & Flippo 1991, 310; Edwards & Marshall, 1977; Lych & Smith, 1975; McMorris & Leonard, 1976; Mueller & Schwedel, 1975; Smith, Coop, & Kinnard, 1979). Subsequent questions on the test may help you develop better answers.

 

 

 

 

 

If you are reading the Orientation for LBRA 1375,
This is where you go back to Orientation

 


NEXT: Finding Information


REFERENCES

 

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Anastasi, A. (1981). Diverse effects of training on tests of academic intelligence. In W.B. Schrader (Ed.), New directions for testing and measurement. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

 

Aponte, J.F., & Aponte, C.F. (1971). Group preprogrammed systematic desensitization without the simultaneous presentation of aversive scenes with relaxation training. Behaviors Research and Therapy, 9, 337-346.

 

Arroyo, S.G. (1981). Effects of a multifaceted study skills program on class performance of Chicano college students. Hispanic Journal of Behavior Sciences, 3(2), 161-175.

 

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Bergman, I. (1980). The effects of providing test-taking instruction for various types of examinations to a selected sample of junior college students. (ED 180-566).

 

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Colby Glass, MLIS