Homework Hints – The Five "P" Strategies For Successful Test-Taking

Lots of kids are afraid of tests.  Some think that the evaluation is going to judge who they are as a person–are they capable, smart or good students?  It is useful to remind a nervous test taker that the test is about knowledge and skill.  So, the trick to successful test-taking is to follow the five “P” strategy:  Plan, Prepare, Practice, Be Positive and Punctual.  These strategies assure that a student is able to effectively demonstrate his/her grasp of a subject.

Plan — At least a week before the test date, Set aside time each day to spend a little time reading,  reviewing, and remembering.  Break the expected information (chapters, ideas, techniques) in to sub-sections and plan on focusing each day on just one sub-section.  This step is important because it allows students to mentally prepare for the test.  The pre-test jitters are reduced because the student is aware of the time put in and the effort to learn boosting his/her confidence. 

Kids know when they haven’t done their best.  Students who don’t plan for the test often feel unprepared because they know they may have shirked their responsibility avoiding the nose-to-the-grindstone time spent.  And, their self-acknowledged lack-of-effort undermines the confidence that is required for successful test-taking. 

Prepare — Some kids can just read the material and “get it”.  Others need additional modes of information input.  Outlining the chapter or rewriting notes from class in an outline form can help kids organize the information.  Outlining also helps to illuminate what pieces of information are missing.  Plus, for “visual” kids, a visual snapshot of the outline creates a picture that the student can access visually during a test.  Sometimes talking about what you know helps cement it into your memory.  Reading through an outline out-loud and telling someone else between-the-lines information, helps “auditory” learners store the information.  They’re thinking, talking and hearing their own words, making them more memorable and available during a test.       

Practice –Making up test questions can often help students practice before taking the test.  When important information is formed in a question, the key ideas can be emphasized.  When taking the test, students are wise to “highlight” (in their minds if not on the test paper), the key words that determine what the question is really about.   Practicing the process of breaking questions down into their key words makes the process easier and more accurate when taking tests. In addition, having some idea about what might be on the test and how it might be worded can ease the jitters and build confidence during the actual test.

Be Positive — Remember: You can do it — others have done it — and most have survived!  And, if the student has planned, prepared, and practiced for the test, he/she has the best chance of doing well.  A little like Dumbo’s feather, kids who have done the work have more confidence because they believe they are prepared.  Unlike Dumbo’s feather, it is legitimate confidence based upon real study skills.

Be Punctual –to prevent feeling rushed or hurried.  Student’s anxiety creates a physical state of anxiousness (nervousness, sweating, heart palpitations, rapid breathing).  Then when kids “feel” anxious, they think they “are” anxious.  This mistaken belief can often block a student’s ability to relax during the test –with his/her mind open and available for the questions on the test.  Being relaxed before the test begins (by being on time) helps keep students relaxed and attentive during the test, confident they are ready to do their best.