How to Take an Oral Exam

How to Take an Oral Exam

For many students, the experience of taking an oral exam is one that is very different to taking a written exam, although you may find that preparation for an oral exam is similar to a written exam.

Oral Exams are a standard feature of English as a Second Language Exams   In addition, several other standardized tests such as the NNAAP have an oral component.  The Canadian Citizenship test also has an oral component. Continue reading “How to Take an Oral Exam” »

How to Concentrate When You’ve Got a Big Test Ahead of You

How to Concentrate When You’ve Got a Big Test Ahead of You

Concentration is one of the most important skills anyone needs throughout their life. As students, it has understandable importance concerning the amount of information that must be consumed and recalled. However, even beyond the student days, it’s necessary to have the skills involved in concentration to healthily and adequately perform any skills or responsibility. With its importance, it also seems to be most elusive. Regardless of how far-fetched it seems to acquire, concentration is a skill that is manageable by everyone. concentrate, concentration, how to concentrate, study skills

What to Do When You Fail a Test

What to Do When You Fail a Test

Once, when I was a college instructor, a student came to me and asked me what he should do when he fails a test.  In other words, is there anything he can do to use that experience to propel him to better performance in the future?  I thought about the question, and several not-so-helpful responses came to mind.  On the next test, if he thinks he’s going to fail, he could: Continue reading “What to Do When You Fail a Test” »

Cheating on a Test – Not such a Good Strategy


The Complete Guide to Cheating on a Test

So, you have a test rapidly approaching and you a) didn’t study or b) don’t want to study, and that’s when you decide to cheat. You’ve seen it done in the movies, in books, and even real life, which means it can’t be that hard. It seems simple enough, right? That’s where you are wrong. While a select few students manage to pull off cheating without getting caught, the same cannot be said for the majority.

Continue reading “Cheating on a Test – Not such a Good Strategy” »

Myths About Exams

Myths About Exams

Everybody knows what’s involved in studying for exams, right? Well–maybe not. In fact, there are several myths that many people believe are true, but which actually do little or nothing to enhance the studying process. Chances are good that you’ve bought into one or more of these myths. Let’s take a look at some of the more common myths, and discuss what the truth is.

MYTH #1: I should study absolutely everything that’s in the textbook or that was discussed by the instructor.

The truth: Only a small portion of the material is included on any test. The key, then, is to figure out what was important enough that it will be included on the test. So how do you do this? You learn to pick up on certain clues. Continue reading “Myths About Exams” »

Test Anxiety Secrets!

anxietyThe Complete Guide to Overcoming Test Anxiety

Put down your class notes and textbook for just five minutes and take this short quiz. It might help with the rest of your study time.

1) Do you have a difficult time motivating yourself to start studying for a big test? ______

2) Do you expect that, no matter how hard you study, that you will do poorly on the test? ______

3) Do you find yourself easily distracted during your study time? _____

4) When you take a test, do you have difficulty understanding directions and the questions? _____

5) Do you feel physical discomfort such as upset stomach, a headache, breathing difficulties or tension as you take a test? _______

6) During the test, do you frequently space out and draw a blank? _______

7) Do you find it hard to organize your thoughts during the test? _______

8) Does your mind wander to other things as you’re testing?

9) Immediately after you finish a test, do you remember an answer that you couldn’t recall during the test? _______

10) Do you find that your test scores are usually lower than those on papers and other assignments? ______

Each of the above questions is a common symptom of test anxiety; if you replied yes to four or more, then anxiety is probably an issue with you and might be causing you real problems.

What is Test Anxiety

Test anxiety is not something dreamed up by students to explain why they do so poorly in their classes. It’s a recognized psychological phenomenon. Specifically, it’s a form of the psychological condition known as ‘performance anxiety.’ It’s described as a flight or fight reaction to people as they perform either in public or for others to evaluate.

Don’t worry though. Just because you experience test anxiety doesn’t mean you’re psychologically imbalanced. In fact, performance anxiety is experienced by most people at some time in their lives.

As with other forms of performance anxiety, test anxiety is your body’s reaction to a stressful situation. Any time you’re under stress, the body releases adrenaline. Adrenaline is a hormone that prepares your body for danger. Adrenaline causes symptoms such as pounding heart, sweating, rapid breathing and sweaty palms.

These symptoms interfere with basic thinking processes, such as remembering, problem solving and analyzing. In other words, test anxiety is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. You worry that you won’t do well on the test, and this triggers adrenaline. The adrenaline causes the symptoms such as the rapid breathing and fast heartbeat, which in turn interfere with clear thinking.

When these symptoms are present, basic thinking processes like remembering, analyzing, and problem solving are affected. That is the reason that students who experience test anxiety feel that their brain is not working right.

The biological state of anxiety evolved for good reason. Its purpose is to keep your body vigilant and ready to fight or run if you must. However, our biological evolution has not kept up with rapid changes in society. The adrenaline rush was meant give extra energy when your life is in danger, not put you on high alert before your college exam.

Another important cause of test anxiety is the worry about how others will perceive you if you do poorly on the exam. A student who regularly experiences test anxiety tends to be the one who puts a lot of pressure on him or herself to perform well. They feel they must do well to make parents happy or to maintain their status as the smart one in the class. One less-than-perfect grade is a blow to their self-confidence, which causes more test anxiety.

The Procrastination Connection

Most students who have a problem with test anxiety also have problems with procrastinating. This is not a coincidence. Our natural reaction when danger is perceived is to avoid the situation. So even though it’s not logical, when the deep-seated emotions sense that the upcoming test presents danger, the mind’s response is to avoid the issue altogether. Studying for the test is the logical thing to do, since this is what will help the student do well on the test; but on an instinctual level, the person wants to run away from anything pertaining to the test.

This just adds to the self-fulfilling prophecy we talked about earlier. The student does not want to study for a test that he or she thinks is going to be difficult. So, when he finally gets around to studying for it, adrenaline is released, and this interferes with studying and with taking the test. The procrastinator inevitably waits until the last possible minute to study, and this makes the test anxiety at exam time even worse.
This means, of course, that a perfectionist is more likely to have problems with test anxiety than the non-perfectionist. The perfectionist finds it hard to accept mistakes he or she might make, which releases the adrenaline that interferes with his or her performance during the test. More on Procrastination.

How to Handle Test Anxiety

Lets look at some specific strategies for handling test anxiety that you can use right now.

The Most important tip – Take care of yourself.

Studying and taking tests uses serious brain power so you want your mind operating at its sharpest. This means looking after yourself physically, mentally and emotionally.

Physical Preparation

Staying healthy can help you stay focused on the course material. Cramming and caffeine are OK if that is the only option, but it is not the easier or recommended option. Eat healthy and eat foods that keep your blood-sugar level stable: fruit, vegetable, grain and protein.

Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water. This sustain energy and focus. Remember cola, alcohol and caffeine dehydrate. Drinking straight water is best.

Reduce alcohol and caffeine. Caffeine actually makes you jittery, which is not conducive for concentrating. More on Caffeine. More on Alcohol and studying.

Keep your body moving. Hours of studying take a toll on the body. Exercise improves your mood, energy level and concentration. Exercise during your normal workout time is great but that is not enough. After you’ve been studying for a while, stop for a few minutes of exercise. A five-minute walk after you’ve been studying for a while is rejuvenating.

Get enough sleep. It’s easier for you to retain information if you keep a regular, healthy sleep schedule. College and University can be crazy and it isn’t always possible to get a full eight hours – do the best you can!
Take breaks. Reward yourself by doing something special for yourself. You might check your Facebook account or eat a bowl of ice cream.

Mental Preparation

Visualize yourself doing well. This means that you need to make yourself believe that you will do well and pass the test. If you spend your energy thinking about yourself failing, you create more anxiety. More anxiety makes it less likely that you’ll do well on the exam. So, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Staying positive and thinking about how great you’re going to do, will reduce anxiety.

Being positive and boosting your confidence is one thing – but don’t become over confident. A little anxiety is good and over confidences can cause you to become careless.

Watch Self Talk. Pay attention to what you’re thinking, both as you’re studying and as you’re taking the exam. Learn to immediately recognize any negative thoughts (I’ll probably bomb the multiple-choice section) and force yourself to stop the thought in mid-stream. Replace these negative thoughts with positive ones: I know this material, so the multiple-choice portion will be a breeze.

Keep your mistakes in perspective. This is both important yet difficult, especially for the perfectionist. However, you must remind yourself regularly that everybody makes mistakes and nobody is great at everything. Learn to think of mistakes as learning opportunities. One boy, for instance, was in a third-grade spelling bee and was eliminated for spelling the word business wrong. Forty years later, he says he has never spelled business as business ever again, all because he learned from a mistake.

Ask for help. Be willing to ask for help. While a little anxiety can serve as a positive signal to act, too much of it will cause you to perform poorly on the test. It’s better, instead, to get some help. Seek out a tutor or, if your professor is open to this kind of thing, speak directly to him about the issue. If you are taking a College exam or High School tests, go to the Counseling center. If nothing else, make plans well in advance to study with a group of friends; this goes a long way toward alleviating the stress that accompanies test anxiety.

Emotional Preparation

Get Happy! Or at least not sad! For many students, college life is a roller coaster of depressed emotions, so, getting yourself happy the week of the test is a great strategy to help you do well on the test. So, indulge in something the week of the test and avoid depressing situations, this way you will be in the right mind set for the test.
Deal with Anger before the test. It does not matter if you are angry with your roommate or test instructor; tell your self that it is not worth losing good marks on your test.

Don’t Fight Reality. Yes, standardized tests favor certain types of students and yes, they may not be the best measure of your knowledge and ability. None of that matters right now because you must take the test and it will count toward your final grade. Deal with it!

Breathing Exercises to Relieve Test Anxiety

Breathing exercises are one of the best ways to relive stress. You can do them sitting down and they will relax you quickly before you start your exam.
I AM exercise. Inhale slowly, and as you do so, say to yourself, “I AM. . .” Now exhale slowly, and complete the sentence, “. . .relaxed.” Do this several times until you feel the anxiety leaving you. Here are some breathing exercises from Dr. Andrew Weil.

Stimulating breath. This exercise is especially good before a test, because it relaxes, raises your vital energy level and increases your alertness. Sit upright and close your mouth (but keeping it relaxed). Now inhale and exhale in short, quick bursts, through your nose. Each inhale and exhale should last only about a half second. Keep them spaced evenly. This produces a rapid movement of your diaphragm. Suggestion: Do this in the back of the class, when not many people are around, or they’re likely to think something’s wrong with you. Do this exercise only for about 20 or 30 seconds. If you do it right, you should feel invigorated and free of stress.

Relaxing breath. This one is super-simple to do while sitting in a classroom chair. Sitting straight up, place the tip of the tongue to it touches the ridge of tissue behind the top front teeth. Keep it there during the entire exercise. Purse your lips slightly. Now exhale completely through the mouth; you should feel a “whoosh” go out of your mouth. Now close your mouth and breath in quietly through the nose, counting to four in your head. Now hold until you count to seven. Return your mouth to a slight pursing of the lips and exhale through the mouth, again generating the “whoosh,” to a mental count of eight. This entire motion counts as one repetition. Do it again three more times. Remember: quiet breaths in through the nose and “whooshing” breaths out through your mouth, with the tip of your tongue remaining in the same position. This exercise acts as a natural tranquilizer. If you feel a bit lightheaded as you do the exercise, don’t worry; it’ll pass.

Breath counting. Sit in your chair, with your spine straight and with your head slightly inclined forward. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Let the breaths be exhaled without attempting to influence it. The exhale should be slow and quiet. Now start the exercise by counting to “one” while exhaling. The next exhale is “two,” the next one, “three,” the next one “four,” and then “five.” After you reach five, start a new cycle, beginning at “one” again. Remember to count only when exhaling. Try to do this for about 8 or 10 minutes before the start of the test, and you should be fully relaxed and yet alert.

Okay, break time is over. Pull out the text and your class notes and let’s ace a test!

Online Relaxation Exercises and Resources

Relaxation

Several relaxation exercises with detailed description and instructions Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Detailed description of different types of anxiety – plus muscle relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, meditations and books. Videos and downloads – see Other Resources – Marquette University

Progressive muscle relaxation video  U. of Texas

Meditation

Free guided meditations in English and Spanish – UCLA

The Meditation Podcast

Guided Medications and other resources – Health Journeys: Resources for Mind, Body, & Spirit

Yoga

Yoga video 

 

 

Mastering Take-Home Tests

Mastering Take-Home Tests

If you were in college and given the option of taking an exam in class or at home, which would you select?  Most students would select the take-home test without hesitating.  There’s something appealing about taking a test at your own place according to your own schedule.

Honestly, though, take-home tests are often harder than in-class tests.  Because the professor knows you have the advantage of consulting reference materials and spending as much time on the test as you want, he often compensates by making the exam more difficult.  However, this doesn’t mean it has to be impossible. Here are a few suggestions to help you master the take-home exam and how to prepare for a test. Continue reading “Mastering Take-Home Tests” »

Common Mistakes Made on a Test

exam

We all know that tests are not much fun and when we take a test and make a stupid mistake we can be really upset – especially when it is something that could have been easily avoided. So what are some of the common mistakes that are made on tests that we should try to avoid whenever possible? Continue reading “Common Mistakes Made on a Test” »

Strategies for Answering True-False Questions

True-False Exam Strategies

True-False exams can be difficult if you do not know how to handle the questions. The following true-false exam strategies will help take the confusion out of those tricky questions: All students have had trouble correctly answering a true-false question, especially if that student has a mindset that makes them read and analyze every question. True False questions are common on College exams, High School tests and Armed Services Entrance Exams like the AFQT and ASVAB. This is not always good for true false questions, as over analyzing it can cause you to create a meaning that is not there.

Here are some tips and suggestions:
Continue reading “Strategies for Answering True-False Questions” »

How to Answer Essay Questions – The Ultimate Guide

How to Answer Essay Questions – The Ultimate Guide

“I hate essays!” This battle cry is famous to most students. That’s because essay questions are either easy or difficult. Either way, there’s no certain formula. Even if you think you know the answer – don’t be overconfident – the critical part is how you make your essay worth reading. So how do you do it? Here are some tips: Continue reading “How to Answer Essay Questions – The Ultimate Guide” »