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Test Taking 101

30 May 2023 10:12 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

Many of you may be studying for a test so I thought I would try to write down a recent presentation I did for Aurora. It can be difficult to know where to start with this process. I would propose, the first thing to do is get a plan together. Here are some key questions: When is the test? How long do you have to study each day? What is the list of topics? Which topics are you already comfortable with and need less time? Once you know the answer to those questions make a study plan and stick to it! It is better to do more, shorter study sessions than long cramming. If you do have to do a long session, take frequent breaks. Plan to study, or at least run through flash cards right before bed. Your brain will continue to wire those neurons while you sleep.

In order to learn, you have to struggle. Meaning you have to activate the connections between your neurons and you have to do it multiple times to make sure the connection is solid. Just reading or glancing at material is not going to make a solid connection. If repetition is key then using a variety of study techniques is also key. Engage as many of your senses as possible. Read about a topic, write it in your own words, talk to someone about it – talk to yourself about it (out loud), listen to a video, take quizzes or do activities, make flash cards. The more of these techniques you can use the better your neurons will connect and most importantly, your recall of the material will be enhanced.

Use colored pens and notecards for studying. You will make an association with the colors and be able to remember the topic better. Consider using a set of colors for each topic. When you make flashcards, just the creation of them will be a good study technique. You can then use them traditionally and I suggest sorting and resorting them into different categories. You can also make up poems or songs or acronyms for material. They don’t have to make sense, but they will help you connect material.

If you are studying and taking practice tests, getting answers wrong also helps you understand where you need more studying. Read different sources so you get different perspectives on the material. You can use videos or recordings of yourself repeating the material. Make sure when you choose videos or material online, that you are picking good sources. You don’t want to study incorrect information.

Now, you’ve studied everything and it’s time to take the test. My number one and most important advice is to BREATHE! Taking a deep breath before you start will help you calm your nerves and relax you. You can do this, you are prepared! You went to bed early last night, you didn’t stay up cramming because you had a plan and stuck to it! Perfect right?

Maybe, but maybe it wasn’t perfect so here’s a few things to consider as you take the test.

When you read the question, make sure you read the entire question carefully. Write down key things in the question. Write down the answer before you look at the answers. Then read the answers. Find the best answer. Some might be close, but maybe not THE BEST. Eliminate the most obviously wrong answers. It's important to select the best answer to the question being asked, not just an answer that seems correct. Often many answers will seem correct, but there is typically a best answer to the question.

Pay particularly close attention to the words not, sometimes, always, and never. An answer that includes always must be irrefutable. If you can find a single counterexample, then the answer is not correct. The same holds true for the word never. If an answer option includes the word never, a single counterexample will indicate the answer is not correct.

More often than not, the correct answer usually contains more information than the other options. This is good to know if you must guess.

Usually, your first choice is the best choice – you’ve wired those neurons so trust them! DO NOT CHANGE YOUR ANSWER! This is a good rule to live by for test taking. If you think you mis-read the question or mis-understood the question the first time you answered it, maybe change the answer. I say you must have a very good reason to change your first choice.

If you come across questions you don’t know, skip them and come back later. Answering the questions you know will build your confidence. Once in a while, you will find a question that either answers the question you didn’t know or triggers your memory and helps you answer it.

Again, my number one advice for tests is BREATHE! Remember I said repetition is key! BREATHE!

Good Luck! I know you can do it!

Sherry Scaggiari is the Environmental Services Manager at the City of Aurora. Sherry has a chemistry degree from CSU and made her start in environmental contract labs over 30 years ago. She has worked for the City of Aurora for 15 years. She is responsible for compliance for Aurora Water including water, wastewater, stormwater.

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