The end of the school year is all about tests. Lots of tests. Studying is critical to a great grade, but even the best study plan can go awry if you fall into one of these test taking traps.

test day mistakes

Rock your exams by knowing the most common mistakes that you can easily avoid.

1. Show up late

Pack everything you can the night before test day, triple-check your alarm, and make sure you have a full tank of gas. Leave even more time to get to your classroom than you think you’ll need.

2. Misunderstand the format of the test

Essays? Short answer? Multiple-choice? Walk in on test day feeling confident about what’s expected with no surprises.

3. Leave the supplies you need in your locker

Make sure you have scratch paper, the right kind of writing instrument, a calculator (charged) if you need it, water and a snack. We’ve got a handy exam checklist right here.

4. Jump in without reading the directions

The wording of directions can be tricky. Make sure to read each question carefully to make sure you understand what’s actually being asked. For example, you don’t want to lose points for defining a science term when the question asked you to give an example.

5. Choose an answer without reading all the choices

For multiple-choice questions, scan all the possible answers before diving in. Sometimes there are answer options like “All of the Above” or “A and C.” You don’t want to have answered “A” and moved on without reading the rest.

6. Get stuck on one tough question

If a question has you stumped, don’t waste all your time trying to figure it out. Move on and then come back if you can.

7. Rush through the easy questions

Slow down on the questions you know you can ace. You won’t make careless mistakes, and you’ll be sure to pick up the maximum number of points.

8. Start writing without a plan

If you’re asked to write an essay, take a moment to outline your ideas before you start writing. Jot down some of your key points in the order you want to make them. Your test will read better and you won’t waste time crossing things out.

9. Leave questions blank

Even if you can’t spot the right answer, never leave a multiple-choice or True or False question blank. Your best bet is to guess and move on. Eliminate the choices you KNOW are wrong first, to improve your chances of getting the question right.

10. Second-guess yourself

If you have time to review your answers and you find a silly error, by all means fix it. But most times you want to go with your gut, rather than over thinking your answers. Many students just end up changing the right answer to the wrong one!

11. Use messy handwriting

You won’t be hovering over your teacher’s shoulder when she grades the test to tell her what your indecipherable answer really says. Boost your grade by using your best handwriting for fill-in-the-blanks, short answers, and essays.

12. Forget to watch the time

Read through the entire test so you know how many sections there are, and if some are going to be more challenging than others. Create a rough plan for how you’ll pace yourself on each part. You can always go back if you have extra time.

13. Leave class early

If you’ve just finished the last problem with time to spare, take the opportunity to double-check your math or read over your written answers. You might spot a mistake or remember a new detail and pick up more points!

14. Get too stressed

Brain freeze can sink your test. Breathe deeply, repeat a mantra like “I’ve got this,” and remember that some test-anxiety is normal.


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