Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Exams: Crack the Code!

Got test phobia? Many of us are dreaded with the word “test”.  Have you ever failed in an exam?  Many people get stressed whenever they needed to take exams. The following are common types of tests and the strategies I found to be very effective in cracking them down.

True/False Tests
This is the most common type of exam we get in school.  Here, we are given two choices that eventually give a 50-50 chance of getting the right answer. If there is no penalty for the wrong choice, then make one. Try to identify the keywords and the qualifiers included. Be careful with the expressions “all, never, no, always” for they may express a wrong answer. Always remember that if the statements never give any chance for a possibility, then it is most likely a wrong answer. The qualifiers like “sometimes, almost always, and often” can signal a true statement. What if the statement is partly true and false?  It is believed that if a sentence has some of its parts considered false, then it is false. It doesn’t exactly follow that a partly true sentence is really true. Longer sentences are also s candidate for true answers since it takes more qualifiers to illustrate that something is true than to use wrong words to make them false. This is sometimes modified and called fact/opinion tests. If the statements include the idea as a result of a research, then it is a fact.  If the statement uses the expressions like believe, thought, or perceived, then it can be an opinion.

Multiple Choice Tests
A multiple choice test is deemed to be one of the easiest types of exam since the answer could be made readily available. In taking a multiple choice test, read the questions first. This will give you an overview of what is being asked. Look at the choices and eliminate the obviously wrong answers for they may distract you later. Stick to your first impression. It is believe that the first choice is most likely the correct answer. Watch out for the expressions like “all of the above” or “none of the above”. If one of the sentences in the choices is wrong, then don’t choose “all of the above”. If one of the choices can be considered for an answer, then don’t choose “none of the above”. It is also believed that most of the wrong answers can be found in choice A.  If you still don’t have an idea and there is no penalty for a wrong answer, make sure to write one down on your paper. You have at least 25% chance of getting it correct than leave it blank and be wrong for sure.

The Reading Test
Confronted by an exam with extremely long content? Never make the mistake of reading the whole passage! It is not the purpose of the test to know how much you know, but how much information you can confirm. Start answering by skimming for the keywords. This is done by reading the questions first. If the choice never possesses the keyword surrounding the paragraph that includes the ideas for the question, eliminate it. Also look for the context clue. There are instances when you will be asked for the meaning of the vocabulary used. If you don’t have any idea of the definition, skim the paragraph again and try to understand the surrounding ideas. One of them may contain the meaning being asked. “What is the main focus of the paragraph?” If you see a question like this, try to check the first sentences of the paragraphs. It is where most topic sentences can be found.  If most of the paragraphs share the common idea, then it is the correct choice.

Short answer test/fill in questions/summary completion

This is one of the most difficult to solve because it requires an exact answer. If you are answering a fill in test, analyze the idea first. If the blanks require a noun, then choose a noun for an answer. Don’t choose any word just because it sounds great. In answering, consider the length of the blank, the tense used, and whether or not it makes the idea run smoothly. For exams that require completing the summary of the topic, be sure to understand the idea since this test employs almost always a paraphrase. If you are asked to enumerate the answers, then make use of mnemonics. This is the strategy of assigning a special code to make memorization easier to take back whenever we needed to write them down, especially in order.

Essay tests
If you can write well, then this is just a piece of cake. However, you need to organize your ideas in order not to spend much time trying to figure out what to write directly. This is done by making an outline before writing to help you focus with your ideas. In writing an outline, make sure to include the basic parts of an essay; the introduction/background, the body/your arguments, and the conclusion. Start your essay by using the ideas of the question as part of the introduction. For example, if the question is “Should employees be allowed to use company’s computer for personal transaction?”, then you can say, “Employees should be allowed to use the company’s computer for personal transaction provided they set a certain limitation.” Copying the important keywords from the question will help your reader identify your stand and what your subject is about. What if you have no idea about the subject? It’s a big no-no to leave your paper clean! Think of any related topics and start writing down your ideas. This will at least give you a credit for the effort!

Before the test:
Avoid cramming. Make sure you prepare yourself for the test. You can do this by making sure you have studied, and with all materials ready the night before the exam. Check your pencils and pens or other required materials. Make sure to bring spares. Don’t let yourself be helpless when your only pencil gets broken and there is no extra to use.
Go to sleep early. The night before the exam, go to bed and get a full night of ZZZzzz. This will help you stay alert, and concentrate more. How can you get some sleep, then? The best way is to study ahead and take time to relax the day before the test. Enjoy the day to feel good, but don’t overdo it by drinking. Many test takers who thought alcohol will make them feel relaxed the eve of the exam found themselves having hangover! The result? You know what happens to the test papers answered by mentally-absent people!
Be on time. If it is your habit to arrive a little late, then maybe you should take this situation differently. Being on time at the venue will give you more chances to keep up with what’s needed just in case you still forget some things! If the test center is not familiar to you, be sure to check it out ahead of schedule. This will help you estimate how much time you needed to prepare for the commute, locate the room your assigned to, and be aware of what to expect in that environment.
Check and recheck the instructions. Never take your admission notice for granted. Oftentimes, they contain important information like dress codes, additional identifications needed, or even extra photos! I have known some people who were denied entry to the exam venue for not wearing the shirt/blouse of prescribed color.
Ask questions. Never hesitate to ask questions before the test. Examiners usually welcome clarifying queries. Don’t ever think you are inferior by asking questions just because people inside the room never say something. Your silence and confusion can never guarantee success to pass!
Pray. When you have done all the test preparations, the only thing you needed is the divine guidance to making correct choices.

After the test:
Recheck your answers. Even if the questions seem very simple, don’t be on the rush to turn your paper in.  If you have some time left, take time to breathe and review your answers. Make sure you haven’t left a number blank or shaded two answers for a single number.
When you get your test paper back, don’t just look at the score and throw them in one corner. Recheck your correct and wrong responses. Sometimes checkers commit mistakes even with the counting of scores!
Learn from your mistake. Checking your corrected test paper will give you the opportunity to identify your weakness. Knowing them will help you avoid committing the same the next time.
Not satisfied with the result? Be sure to study harder the next time. Once the exam is finished and grades are in, stop criticizing yourself so badly. You must make a promise to do better rather than blame yourself for not doing so.
By the time you are confronted with even the most difficult test, keep focused and make use of the strategies! They do work well!