Test-taking Tips and Strategies

The simplest way to prepare for the TOEFL, SAT, or ACT is to enroll in a preparation course.

These classes are well designed to help students identify and improve on their weakness. They also familiarize students with the format of the test and provide test-taking strategies. Some of the best test preparation courses are offered by Kaplan, Princeton Review, and Sylvan.

Common test-taking strategies:

Become familiar with the format of the test 

You should know how many, in what order, and what kinds of questions will be asked on the test. You should also know how much time is given to complete each section. The best way to do this is to take timed practice exams. Practice exams can be found in the back of test preparation books.

Answer the easy questions first

There are essentially three kinds of questions on standardized tests: those that are easy and to which you know the answer, those in which you are not sure about the answer, and then some that you have no idea what the answer is. To get the best score, spend the most time answering the easy questions first. If you don’t know the answer to a question, skip it and return to it later.

Once you have answered all the questions that you know, or can figure out, spend some time on the questions that you are not sure about. Some of the answers on these multiple-choice questions will obviously be incorrect and you may be able to make an educated guess as to the correct answer from the remaining choices. If you absolutely don’t know the answer you can leave it blank. In fact, some tests penalize wrong answers so leaving it blank may be better than entering a wrong answer. 

Prepare until you are confident

Students get the best scores when they know what to expect on the exam and have confidence in their test-taking abilities. By the time you take the TOEFL, SAT, or ACT you should feel as if you have been preparing for a major athletic competition. This level of preparedness translates into high scores.

One final tip

Don’t skip breakfast. Standardized tests often take about 5 hours to complete with only short breaks in between.