Test Taking Tips: Working Within Time Limits

Tests are stressful enough without putting a time limit on them. Here are some tips to make sure you finish your exam within the allotted time.

Taking a test is stressful even if you have adequately studied and reviewed. The idea that a grade depends on a specific test can be so stress-inducing that even though we have studied for hours and adequately prepared ourselves, we can freeze when the professor tells us to turn the tests over and begin the examination. Will we be able to finish the exam within the time allotted? Sure you will, if you keep these tips in mind.

Come Prepared

Since you will only have a certain amount of time for the exam, you must come prepared. You will need a watch to keep track of the time. If this is an exam that will require calculations, bring an adequate amount of scratch paper. You don't want to be searching through your backpack in the middle of an exam for some extra paper to write on. Bring several sharp pencils. You don't want to have to get up and sharpen your pencil and lose precious time. You will not want to use a pen, especially during an essay exam, since it will be much more difficult to scratch out part of an answer than it will be to simply erase it.

Peruse the Exam

Before you actually begin taking the examination, take two minutes to peruse the entire exam. Most exams are a combination of short essay, multiple choice, true and false and long essay questions. In your mind, plot out the exam into different sections, allotting a chunk of time to each section. For example, if you have one hour to complete the exam, allot 15 minutes for the multiple choice questions, 10 minutes for the true and false questions and 35 minutes for the essay questions. Keep track of the time on your watch. If you are not finished with the multiple choice questions or true and false questions in the allotted time, you can come back to them later.

Answer Easy Questions First

We look at one of the first questions that reads, "If Train X is moving towards the center of town at 65 miles per hour and Train Y..." and, suddenly, it looks as if the question is written in another language. What does it mean? If you look at a question and it looks difficult, skip it. Move on to an easier question. This will not only build your confidence, but it will let you get all of the easy questions out of the way and let you move on to the harder questions. If you let yourself get stuck on the hard questions at the beginning, you may lose time and not get to answer some of those easier questions (thus gaining some easy points) before the exam ends.

Be Careful With Essay Questions

When you reach essay questions, carefully read the question and immediately write down whatever thoughts pop into your mind. Sometimes you will think of something brilliant and moments later, forget what it was you had in mind. After brainstorming some quick notes, jot out a short outline of what you wish to write before you actually begin writing. As ideas pop into your head, jot them down immediately. This will eliminate any time you might spend erasing and revising later on.

While you will want to finish the exam within the time limits and answer each question to the best of your knowledge, you will also not want to finish an exam before time is up. If you find that you have sped quickly through an exam, use that extra time to proofread your answers and go over some of those more difficult questions.

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