Listen carefully to all the directions. Be sure to notice if the directions change during the test. In many tests the directions at the beginning do not cover all of the items, and you will have to change your procedure one or more times on your own. This is why knowing the test format ahead of time is so important; you do not want to waste time figuring out what you are being asked to do.
Take care filling in the bubbles on your answer sheet. A Scan-tron machine-not a human-has to be able to read your marks. If the bubble is not filled in completely or if your mark is not dark enough, the Scan-tron will not record your answer; and you will get the answer wrong. Likewise, if your marks go outside of the bubble in a sloppy manner, the Scan-tron may not know which answer you were marking. Again, you may not get proper credit for what you know.
Do not let the lettering of choices confuse you. Some tests letter the answers a, b, c, d, and then change the letters on the next item to f, g, h, j. Be careful to mark the answer sheet accordingly. If the third answer is correct, mark the third bubble whether it is a letter "c" or a letter "h."
Adjust your reading to the kind of passages you encounter. If you are asked to read a functional text, a text you might encounter in your everyday life such as an advertisement or a brochure (a chart or graph in science or history), you may not have to read the entire text carefully. Instead, you should skim the text to determine its overall purpose and parts, and then read the questions and go back to find specific parts to read more carefully. On the other hand, you probably need to read a story or an article closely before reading any of the questions so that you grasp the overall meaning first. After a close reading, answer as many questions as you can without having to look back at the passage. Then, after narrowing your choices, go back into the passage to check the answers that are not as clear to you. Having read well the first time will make it easier for you to find specific details or to think through questions which ask about broad topics like the author's purpose or main idea.
If the test refers to "you" or asks what "you" should do, realize that this is not the personal "you," but rather means "a person." The test, then, is asking for a general response—the one the test maker thinks is most important—rather than what you personally believe or might do.
Be sure to read all the key words in the test questions. Test makers like to put in questions like: all of the following, except, or which one is not in the selection. Watch for this language that changes the question's or statement's meaning: no, not, never, usually, always, sometimes, etc.
Likewise, notice any italicized words in the passages and in the questions. The italics may be a clue to help you find a word in context for a definition.
Use the process of elimination to select the best answers. First of all, do not stop reading at the first likely answer. Read all of the answers to make sure you are selecting the best answer. On some tests all of the answers may be partially right. Whenever you can, however, you should eliminate the answers that are least likely. Then, if you are still unsure, guess between the answers that are left. Even on tests that say there is a penalty for guessing, "educated guessing"-guessing based on narrowing the answers down to the best two choices-will bring you more points than you might lose if you leave the answer blank.
Do not spend too much time on any one item. If a passage or a question is taking too much time, move on to the next one and come back later if you have time. Although on some tests, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test for college, the questions are arranged from the easiest to the most difficult, on other tests this is not the case. Often the levels of difficulty between and within the passages vary. As a result, you should push on and finish what you can on the test, knowing that later passages may be truly easier than the previous passages or may be easier for you because of your familiarity with the content, etc. Aim for finishing the test and filling in all the bubbles if you possibly can.
If you skip any items, be careful not to lose your place on the answer sheet. Keep checking the number of the question with the number on the answer sheet to make sure your marks are in the right bubbles.
When the warning time is called, go back to items you have skipped and make your final decisions and best guesses. Sometimes items you revisit will be clearer than the first time you saw them. Guess wherever it is possible to do so.
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