Online College Courses for Credit

Taking Tests

Taking Tests

Author: Nikki Hansen

To provide the student a variety of test taking tips.

This packet includes a large variety of test-taking tips to help students understand and adopt healthy and effective test-taking skills.

See More
Fast, Free College Credit

Developing Effective Teams

Let's Ride
*No strings attached. This college course is 100% free and is worth 1 semester credit.

37 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

299 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 32 of Sophia’s online courses. Many different colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.


General Suggestions For Taking Tests

  1. Plan your arrival so that you have plenty of time. Be sure to check your test taking material prior to leaving for the exam. (Showing up for an exam late or without a pencil is a sure way to focus unfavorable attention on yourself.)
  2. Read all directions. Underline key words in the directions that give indication as to how your answers are to be recorded and how they should be worded.
  3. Budget your time. Survey the test to determine the type and number of questions to be answered. Determine where you will start on the test. Check yourself at 15 or 20 minute intervals to determine if you are progressing at an acceptable rate.
  4. Be aware that you may have problems remembering from time to time. If you find yourself blocking, move on to the next question.
  5. Ask for help in interpreting test questions which you do not understand.
  6. Be aware of any negative statements you are telling yourself about the test. Such statements as "I'm failing, I didn't study for this, and the test is too hard for me" are sure ways of increasing anxiety.
  7. Do not be concerned with what the other students are doing. (Another sure way of increasing anxiety is to tell yourself you are the only one having trouble.)
  8. As a general rule answer the easy questions first.

Answering Different Types of Exam Questions

Multiple Choice

  1. Pay attention to qualifying words (e.g., always, never)
  2. Do not look for patterns.
  3. Read through the questions with the answer.
  4. Estimate the alternatives.
  5. Look for clues (e.g., grammar, tenses)
  6. Guess if you don’t know the answer.
  7. Work backwards — read the answers, then the question.
  8. Choose the best alternative (more than one answer may be correct).


Matching is an exercise in recalling memorized information. The tests are divided into two columns. Items on the left side are usually matched with responses on the right side.

  1. Ask if you can use alternatives more than once.
  2. Do not match if you are not sure.
  3. Take each entry in turn in the left column and try to think of the answer before reading the choices.
  4. Choose the best answer and mark the answer sheet according to the directions
  5. Narrow down the field, by completing those answers you know are correct.
  6. Avoid changing answers.


This test item also requires recalling specific types of information. Unlike the multiple choice and matching question, you must supply the appropriate word or number to complete the entry.

  1. Look for clues (e.g., grammar, tenses)
  2. Use common sense.
  3. Choose the best word.
  4. Pay attention to the length of line give or to the number of lines.
  5. Read through after you answer to make sure it sounds right.


Essay questions are analytical in nature. Your instructor is interested in determining how well you relate course material and class discussion to the particular question under consideration.

  1. Read directions carefully (i.e., Do you have to answer every question of just three out of five?).
  2. Re-read questions. Pay attention and know the meaning of key words (e.g., explain, contrast, compare).
  3. Outline your answer.
  4. Include an introduction, middle, and conclusion to your essay.
  5. Include details.
  6. Be general when you aren’t sure of the exact detail (e.g., It is better to write “late fourteen hundreds” rather than 1493 if the true date is 1492).

Short Answer

  1. Pay attention to grammar.
  2. Answer within the context of the course.
  3. Use terms the instructor used.
  4. If you are having a problem, answer by giving an example.
  5. Beef up your answers if you have time.


  1. Pay attention to qualifying words (e.g., always, never)
  2. The answer is false if any part is false.
  3. Do not look for patterns.
  4. Guess if you don’t know.
  5. Stick with your first answer unless you are sure you are wrong.


  1. Read the question.
  2. Re-read getting important information.
  3. If there is a multiple option, estimate your answer.
  4. Work backwards (e.g., 2 + 3 = 5, 5 - 2 = 3)
  5. Watch for careless errors.

Important Words In Essay Questions


The following terms appear frequently in the phrasing of essay questions. You should know their meaning and answer accordingly. (This list and the sense of definitions, though not the exact words, are adapted from C. Bird and C. M. Bird, Learning More by Effective Study, Appletom Century Crofts, New York, 1945, pp. 195-198.)

Look for qualities or characteristics that resemble each other. Emphasize similarities among them but in some cases also mention differences.
Stress the dissimilarities, differences, or unlikeness of things, qualities, events, or problems.
Express your judgment about the merit or truth of the factors or views mentioned. Give the results or your analysis of these factors, discussing their limitations and good points.
Give concise, clear and authoriative meanings. Don’t give details, but make sure to give the limits of the definition. Show how the things you are defining differs from the things in other classes.
Recount, characterize, sketch, or relate in sequence or story form.
Give a drawing, chart, plan, or graphic answer. Usually you should label a diagram. In some cases, add a brief explanation or description.
Examine, analyze carefully, and give reasons pro and con. Be complete, and give details.
Write in list or outline form, giving points concisely one by one.
Carefully appraise the problem, citing both advantages and limitations. Emphasize the appraisal of authorities and, to a lesser degree, your personal evaluation.
Clarify, interpret, and spell out the material you present. Give reasons for differences of opinion or of results, and try to analyze causes.
Use a figure, picture, diagram, or concrete example to explain or clarify a problem.
Translate, give examples of, solve, or comment on a subject, usually giving your judgment about it.
As in "enumerate," write an itemized series of concise statements.
Organize a description under main points and subordinate points, omitting minor details and stressing the arrangement or classification of things.