If there is one thing students are familiar with, it’s exams. All kinds of exams; the ones with multiple choice answers, true/false questions, an essay or two, and yes… even math exams! While it’s important to understand subject content, it is also helpful to apply test taking strategies that narrow down the correct answer if one is not readily apparent.
When it comes to multiple choice questions, after reading the question you should answer it in your head before looking at the choices. Does you answer seem to fit? If so, good. Then you can look at the possible answers listed and choose the closest one. If you are still unsure, you should go through all the answer choices and try out each one. Which one seems to fit best? Next, you can eliminate the answers that seem furthest from the truth. That way, if you have to guess, you will have fewer possible answers to choose from. Two final words of advice. Don’t second guess yourself! This will only create unnecessary anxiety; and besides, if you’re gut is telling you something, it is best to listen. Lastly, beware of questions that say things like “All of the following EXCEPT…” Don’t be fooled by tricky wording.
In addition to multiple choice questions, there is also the dreaded true/false question. It seems easier since you have a 50-50 chance of being right. But these questions can still be tough, and a good strategy can go a long way towards helping you answer them. First thing, analyze the question. Break it down and figure out what exactly the question is asking. Then try to prove the answer false. It is important when doing this to remember that if any part of the question is false, then the whole answer is false. Finally, as with the multiple choice questions, watch out for tricky wording. Words like “Always, Sometimes,” or “Never” should be red flags reminding you to pay special attention.
Another section you may encounter on finals is the essay question. This requires more thought and strategy than the other two because much of it is subjective. But there are still ways you can make sure you do your best on this portion of the exam. The first thing to do is brainstorm. Get all your thoughts down on paper then prepare to organize. You can do this by creating an outline or a graphic organization chart, which will give you something to follow as you structure your essay. When you write your essay, make sure you have an intro, a thesis, body, and conclusion. This may seem self evident, but you could lose big points if you overlook one of these vital components. Also, make sure that everything you write relates back to the thesis. Consider the thesis the paper’s commander. It must be obeyed and adhered to. Any attempt to step outside the thesis in your essay will end up with lost points. Also make sure to answer all parts of the questions asked. Oftentimes essays will ask you to answer multiple questions. Make sure you don’t leave one out. Also, use vocabulary that is appropriate to the subject matter, but make sure you are well acquainted with that vocabulary. It does no good to use fancy words if you’re not sure if you’re using them correctly. Finally, make sure you leave time to review your essay. Don’t turn it in without having read it over.
The last section we will go over is the math section. For some of you, this will be a joy. For others, a fear. Either way, we have some tips that can help you. First you want to make sure that you read the question carefully and underline the key points. It is hard to get the right answer if you aren’t clear on what the question is asking. Also make sure to show your work. Sometimes teachers will give only partial credit if the way you arrived at your answer isn’t demonstrated. For clarity’s sake, make sure your answer is circled. There will probably be a lot of numbers twirling around your answer space, and you want to make sure your teacher knows which one is the final answer. Also, be sure you plug the answer you get into the original question to make sure it fits.
When evaluating the question, especially word problems, make sure to break them down into their different parts. After you have done that, drawing a diagram can also be helpful. Other helpful tips are to write down any formulas for the variables in the problem so you can have them handy, make sure you include units of measure, put the answer in its simplest form, and round to the correct number of decimal places. Math is about being exact, so any little thing that you neglect can mean fewer points for you.
Finals are certainly a stressful time of year, but that doesn’t mean you need to go in unprepared. Using some of these simple strategies, you can ensure that you get the most out of each question on your exams.