Common Mistakes Made on a Test


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?

– Failing to put your name on a test – How could you possibly forget to put your name on a test? You would be amazed at how often that happens and usually those are thrown out immediately by a teacher so the person gets a failing grade on the exam.

– Circling the wrong multiple choice answer – This happens more often than you think and many times the person knows the right answer and was looking at it and then circled the answer right next to it or above or below it.

– Answering a question twice – This usually happens in a multiple choice question where two answers are circled – making it a wrong answer.

– Leaving an answer blank – This often happens when you skip a question because you want to come back to it – but you forget to do so. Anything left blank is always a wrong answer.

– Transferring the answer incorrectly from scratch paper – This can happen easily if you are trying to hurry and write down 1/2 when you meant 1/4 – thereby giving an incorrect answer.

– Ignoring the clock – In a timed examination many students lose track of the time and don’t have enough time to complete the test.  See our post on Working with Time Limits.

– Thinking too much – Self doubts often occur especially when you are not really sure about the subject matter but you should usually stick with your first answer.

– Unpreparedness – Running out of ink and not having an extra pen or pencil is not an excuse that is usually tolerated – it’s up to you to be prepared.  See our post, The Ultimate Guide to Test Preparation Strategy

– Not following directions – That are a number of words used in directions that have very specific meanings and if misunderstood or not read correctly, it can cause you points on that answer and worst case – it can make you fail the exam.

Here are some common types of words used in instructions that tell you what you should do for that particular section of the test:

– Analyze – This type of question usually means it is an essay so you should explain it thoroughly.
– Comment – This usually means that you should provide your explanation of the relevance of the statement that has been made.
– Compare – Simply explain the similarities and differences between two items.
– Contrast – Explain the differences only between two items.
– Define – This is usually a short essay or definition of a particular item.
– Demonstrate – This requires proof so you need to provide an example to answer the question.
– Diagram – Drawing a picture or chart to answer the question.
– Discuss – Frame the answer like a conversation providing pros and cons of the two issues.
– Enumerate – This is a list that is normally in a particular order like 1,2,3.
– Examine – This is your opinion on a particular subject which requires your reasoning as to why you reached your opinion.
– Explain – This needs your overview of an issue and your reasoning for your conclusion.
– Illustrate – This requires an example.
– Interpret – This requires your reasoning for your conclusion.
– Justify – This also requires your reasoning and examples to support your conclusion.
– List – This is a series of answers of a particular subject.
– Outline – This requires an explanation that usually has headings and subheadings.
– Order – This is usually a chronological listing such as dates.
– Prove – This requires your reasoning for your solution.
– Review – This is usually a recollection of important parts of a subject.
– Trace – This is to recollect something step by step – as an event.



Written by:
Modified: September 26th, 2017
Published: May 15th, 2009

3 thoughts on “Common Mistakes Made on a Test”

  1. i agree totally. One has to be extra careful not to prepare for an exam and then lose out because of a mistake

  2. i once completed an exam and forgot to add my name. i only discovered the error when i did a final cross check. so always do a final cross check before you submit. nice points

    1. I did that on a quiz and the Prof was good enough to allow me the paper – he quizzed me on it to make sure it was my paper but he did give it to me. Scared me tho and after that I always remembered.

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