Important Habits of Effective Test-Takers

Certain students do well on virtually every exam in every subject they tackle. Oftentimes, the secret to their success can appear nebulous or innate. However, most effective test-takers possess key habits and traits that ensure they earn high marks time and again. Let us examine a few:

1. They are prepared

One of the most important factors in scoring well on any exam, whether it is the SAT, the MCAT, an AP, or a final, is preparation. It may sound obvious, but effective preparation is paramount. All effective test-takers devote significant time and effort to understanding the amount and type of studying they must complete in order to succeed on a test. This can involve content review from multiple sources, as well as completing practice questions. Comprehensive study schedules ensure that preparation is thorough and that no topics are overlooked. Without preparation, additional strategies are ineffective. Here are some great tips on how to mentally prepare for test day that you may find useful as well.

2. They are cognizant of time during the exam

For tests with time limits, it is vital for students to be aware of their pace. You do not receive points for questions you do not attempt. This is a common reason many students do not score well on exams for which they are otherwise fully prepared. Skilled test-takers monitor the time remaining during an exam at regular intervals, and they complete practice tests under time constraints beforehand to accurately simulate the real exam.

3. They do not fixate on difficult questions

Despite extensive preparation, the majority of students will encounter at least one question they do not understand on a test. What distinguishes decent test-takers from great test-takers is that great test-takers quickly realize they do not know the answer. They make an educated guess (see below) and move on. This allows these students more time to address the problems they do understand in order to ultimately score additional points. By refusing to fixate on questions for which they do not have a clear answer, successful test-takers also maintain their psychological momentum. They do not devote significant mental effort to fighting a losing battle.

4. They make educated guesses

Another key difference between those individuals who are prepared but do not see results and those who consistently score well is the ability to employ deduction when guessing, rather than blindly selecting an answer and hoping for the best. Strong test-takers utilize the process of elimination to substantially improve their chances of choosing the correct response. By pausing for a moment to eliminate answer choices that they strongly believe are wrong, students will increase their likelihood of earning points on a question they “don’t know.”

5. They are healthy as a whole

To perform your best on any exam, it is important not to neglect other facets of your life. Effective test-takers ensure that they have a consistent and balanced diet, maintain a regular sleeping schedule, and set aside time for physical activity and relaxation. Given the intricate links between cognitive performance and physical well-being, it is easy to grasp the fact that being healthy will assist you in developing a mental edge come exam time. Here are 6 test prep mantras to live by in the new year that you may want to take a look at as well.

6. They are able to concentrate

Possibly the most significant factor that allows students to succeed on exams is concentration. In order to be a successful test-taker, students must learn how to focus completely on the task at hand. Whether it is studying material, completing practice exams, or sitting for the real test, those who concentrate fully and intensely can score well. Developing your ability to do as much requires time and practice. Removing yourself from distractions when reviewing is a great place to start. Meditation can also augment your concentration. 

It is no secret that our education system is deeply rooted in testing. Standardized exams, board exams, and final exams occur frequently as students progress along the academic ladder. In order to flourish within higher education, it is vital for students to develop the key skills and habits of effective test-takers.