Monday, January 24, 2011

How I Do Well on Standardized Tests

I consider myself a pretty good standardized test taker. As a sophomore in high school, I scored a 720 V and 760 M (out of 800) on the SAT in the time prior to the writing segment. More than 30 years after graduating, I scored a 33 (out of 36) composite on the ACT to qualify as a college test preparation tutor. In the past two years, I passed the tests to advance ten levels in my part time financial services job.

For reference, I'm not a genius. Instead, I do three things to maximize my score on standardized tests. Here are my strategies to do well:
  • Know the test design. Most standardized tests are designed to evaluate the test takers knowledge on a relatively narrow topic area under timed conditions. The type of answers be may multiple choice, open ended or essay format. Most tests are closed book, but some are open book.

    To learn the design, I obtain copies of previous tests and practice. This gives me a good feel of what to expect on the actual test, including the common trap questions.

  • Study critical subject matter. Since the time for a test is limited, the content tested is also limited. Prior to a test, I study the topics more likely to be tested. Generally, practice tests give a good indication of the higher priority topics.

  • Use successful test strategies. Depending on the type of questions, I use different test strategies. For all tests, I do the questions I can answer quickly first and save the more involved questions for the end. In addition, I make sure I read and understand the question.

    For multiple choice questions, I try to predict the answer and eliminate the obviously incorrect answers. For open ended questions, I work out the solution in detail to ensure I covered all points. For essay questions, I try to organize the piece in three part structure: introduction, supporting evidence, and conclusion.

    Finally, I will always guess if there is no penalty for incorrect answers. If there is a penalty, I will only guess if I can eliminate at least one choice.
  • Of course, learning and knowing the subject matter is also very important. If I didn't already know arithmetic, algebra, and geometry, the above test strategies wouldn't help much in a standardized math test. However, when I do know the topic, the above test strategies typically help me maximize my scores.

    For more on Strategies and Plans, check back every Monday for a new segment.

    This is not financial or test taking advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2011 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

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