27Basic Test-Taking Tips in English

by Danny K. Howard, EAP Associate Director

Everyone takes tests! It is one of the first things that you do when you enter a school. Your ability to do well on tests is important because they will decide your level. Therefore, this information that I give in this article will be very helpful for you.

Over the past 8 years at NIC, I have seen many students make very poor decisions when they take tests. Therefore, I have decided to share some tips with you that will make a big difference in your effort.

Before the test

· Learn about the test before you take it

This is simple advice, but very few students follow it. Sometimes the school will not give you specific information about this, but sometimes you can get lucky. Some very important questions are:

  1. Which sections will be tested? (for example—listening, speaking, grammar, writing, reading)
    You need to know which areas you need to prepare for before you take the test. If there is a listening section, maybe it is good idea to listen to a lot of English before the test to get used to it.
  2. What types of questions will be asked? (for example—multiple-choice, True/False, short answer, essay etc.)
    If the test is all multiple-choice, you don’t have to worry about your writing ability, do you?
  3. How much time do I have to complete the test?
    Longer tests require more effort and concentration.
  4. Which section is the most important one to prepare for?
    It is important to know which section is the most important. If the reading section is worth 60% of the score, you should focus on improving your reading ability before taking it.

· Get good rest and nutrition

Never stay up very late preparing for a test. Lots of students do this and it causes problems. Lack of sleep will cause you to lose concentration, and it will cause your brain to work poorly in a test situation. Your body also needs food to work properly. Always get at least 8 hours of sleep and definitely eat a great breakfast before you leave!

During the test

· Know the directions!

Always make sure that you read the directions for each section very carefully. Some students try to rush through the test, which is a bad idea. You might lose some time reading the directions. However, you might make big mistakes that could really affect your score if you don’t know what to do.

Tests like TOEFL always have the same directions. So once you learn the directions for a test like this, you will save time in the future.

· Plan your time & do the most important section first!

Know how much time you have to take the test. Then plan how you are going to finish it. Do this quickly before you begin.

For example, pretend that your test has four sections: Grammar, Vocabulary, Reading & Writing. You have 1 hour to take it.
You read the directions and find out that...   the Grammar section is worth→10 points 
                                                                        the Vocabulary is worth→10 points
                                                                        the Reading is worth→30 points
                                                                        the Writing is worth→50 points

0

This is very important! It will always make sure that you don’t run out of time. However, you must do this very quickly!!!

· Make good guesses and eliminate

If you are not sure about an answer, don’t close your eyes and guess. Instead make a good guess! You do this by eliminating (not choosing) bad answers. If you have a question like the one below...

Guess the meaning of the bold-faced word.
23. The tiger becomes even more fierce when it is followed through the jungle.

  1. big, huge
  2. angry & strong
  3. slow
  4. fast

Those answers don’t make any sense. So you can eliminate answers a & c.

Now, you might not be 100% about the answer, but you have a 50/50 chance of guessing either b or d. By the way, the answer is b!

· Complete all of the questions

Some students take tests (even NIC entrance exams) and they do not finish the questions. Or sometimes they don’t write anything for the essay. If you are running out of time, think quickly and answer the questions faster. Never leave your answers blank. Always answer every question. Amazingly, some students don’t follow this advice.

Above are just some ideas for being a good test-taker. Of course, there are more ideas that I could write. These are just some of the more important ones that you should know. Good luck on your tests!