Test Taking Strategies and Test Anxiety

First Things First

  • On the first day of class, review your syllabus to determine how many tests there are for the class and when they are scheduled.
  • Ask your professor what type of questions will be on the tests (essay, multiple choice, true/false, varied) and how much time you will have to complete each test (entire class period, half the class). 
  • Create a study schedule.  Outline time for reading, completing assignments, reviewing notes, study groups, and creating study aids such as note cards.  

Day of the Exam

  • Arrive a little early, so you do not feel rushed.
  • Look at the whole test so you know what type of questions are being asked and estimate how much time you have to complete each section.    
  • Work through the test once, answering all the familiar questions.  If you are unsure of the answer to a question, place a check next to it and move on.  Your goal the first time through the test is to answer as many questions as possible correctly to maximize your points in a short amount of time.  Then go back through the test a second time to answer remaining questions.

Multiple Choice

  • Read the question carefully.
  • Read each possible answer before selecting an answer.
  • After reading, focus on the answer you think is correct.  If there is more than one possibility, reread the question to make sure you understand what is being asked.  If you cannot decide on an answer, put a check by the question and move on. 
  • Do not second guess your answer. 
  • Periodically check to make sure you are filling in the answers on the correct question number.

True and False

  • Look for words like often, usually, always, or never.  These words often impact if the question is true or false. 
  • Are there two clauses in the statement?  If so, both must be true for the answer to be true.


These answers are opinion-based and will vary from student to student.  Studying for a subjective test is usually more general in nature than studying for an objective test; however, specific facts and organization are expected.  It is best to understand the general concepts of the issue and be able to apply the information in an organized fashion.

To study for subjective tests, write down the main topics discussed, understand the general concepts of each topic, and be able to provide examples.  Be able to put the information in your own words.  Comprehension is key, rather than memorizing random facts. 


  • Read the question and note parts to the question that need to be answered specifically.  Look for words such as compare and contrast, analyze and comment. 
  • Take time to outline your answer.  This will help you to ensure you have a focused answer and your thoughts are organized.
  • Follow your outline.
  • Reread the question.  Make sure you answered all parts of the question.  If you have time, reread your essay to correct spelling and grammar errors.
  • Consider answering multiple choice questions before essay questions.  Sometimes multiple choice questions can give information or examples that may be useful in your essay.

Short Answer

These questions are very similar to essay questions but you should be able to move through them more quickly.  Take a moment to think of examples and key terms you want to use in your answer.  Keep in mind how many points each question is worth. 

Learn From the Test

Once the test is graded, review each question.  Determine what information you knew and where you need to spend more time studying.  This is especially important if the class has a comprehensive final.  Talk with your professor about how you can improve in particular areas, what study tips they have, and discuss missed questions.

Test Anxiety

Most students experience some level of anxiety (sweating, rapid heartbeat, light-headedness, nausea), but when it interferes with test performance it is deemed  excessive and is labeled test anxiety.  If you believe you may be suffering from test anxiety, you may want to seek assistance from the College's Counseling Center.   

Reduce Text Anxiety

  • Be prepared for the test.  The more confident you are in the material, the more relaxed you will be on test day.
  • Keep yourself organized and on task.  Cramming for a test increases test anxiety.
  • Get plenty of sleep on the nights leading up to the test.
  • Hydrate, eat well, and make sure to have breakfast or lunch prior to the test.

Anxiety the Day of the Test

  • Take a minute to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
  • Work on calming your body and focusing your mind on the subject.
  • Do not be distracted by your notes or what other students are saying about the material.  Focus on what you studied.
  • Recall your test taking strategy.
  • Stretch and remember to relax your body throughout the exam.
  • If you go blank, take a moment to put your pencil down, take a deep breath, and then start again.  Move to the next question if you do not know the answer.
  • Stay positive. Remind yourself you studied, you know the material, and you can do this.
  • Remember, anxiety is normal.
  • Ignore the actions of others.  You do not get more points for turning in your exam early.


Saint Mary's College of California Test Taking Strategies. (2018, July 23). Retrieved from https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/academics/academic-resources-support/student-academic-support-services/tutorial-academic-skills-8