Doing well on English examinations – or any examination for that matter – depends not only on your knowledge, but also on having a good strategy.
- Do not insist on completing each question before going to the next. By insisting on completing each question, you loose time and become nervous.
- If possible, go through the entire test answering the questions you are sure you know.
- Go through the test a second time working out the answers to more difficult questions.
- Once you have gone through the test twice, see if any of the questions asked can help you answer any really difficult questions.
- If you have a strong feeling about a question when you first answer it, don’t go back and change it later.
- Play the odds: If you don’t know the answer, write something. In a 4 choice multiple choice question you have a 25% chance of being right.
- Do not cheat! Taking a test is as much for you as it is for your teacher. If you cheat, you won’t help yourself in the long run.
- Do not translate from your mother tongue!
- Don’t block when listening.
- Limit yourself to what you know.
- Look for time signifiers when having to conjugate.
- Throw out the ridiculous answers in a multiple choice question.
- Don’t try to be too funny or clever.
- If you don’t know an answer, don’t worry about it. Worrying about what you don’t know keeps you from showing what you do know.
- Remember that tests not only given to test your ability, but also to help you learn what you need to focus on to improve your English.
- If you don’t understand why you have made a mistake, make sure to ask the teacher about that mistake in a latter session. Being embarrassed about mistakes will never help you improve, so ask!
Sooner or later, most students are confronted with the necessity of taking some form of English examination. These tests include:
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
- Cambridge Examinations (First Certificate, CAE, Proficiency)
- University examinations
- On the Job examinations
- Examinations given by your teacher
As you have probably noticed, some students are more successful than others when taking such an examination. Often the more successful students are better prepared. However, sometimes students who do well have better test taking skills. These abilities really have nothing to do with understanding English better. They are strategic skills that make taking the test easier, and therefore provide better results.
Some General Guidelines
Here are some very important – and often ignored – guidelines to taking a test successfully.
- Do not insist on completing each question before going to the next.This is extremely important. If you spend a lot of time on one question that you don’t understand there can be two negative outcomes:
- Losing timeRemember one question may only be worth one point, if you are not able to answer questions later because you have lost time you could lose more points!
- Becoming nervousBecoming nervous can make you lose your concentration and that leads to worse results.
- If possible, go through the entire test answering the questions you are sure you know.This results in your being more relaxed and feeling more confident.
- Go through the test a second time working out the answers to more difficult questions.Now you will feel more confident and this will improve your test taking. However, remember to not waste too much time on any one question.
- Once you have gone through the test twice, see if any of the questions asked can help you answer those really difficult questions.This is a little used trick. Sometimes questions asked are answered in later questions asking for different things. This should not be tried until you have finished the test and have some time remaining to try the questions you have had problems with again.
- If you have a strong feeling about a question when you first answer it, don’t go back and change it later.Usually (but not always) a strong first impulse means we know the answer and we don’t really have to think about it too much. Going back to think about it usually makes you unsure and often causes an error. This is very common so be very careful!
- Play the oddsIf you don’t know the answer, write something. If you are answering a 4 possibility multiple choice question you will still have a 25% chance of being correct!
- Do not cheat!!!Taking a test is as much for you as it is for your teacher. If you cheat, you don’t help yourself in the long run.
Specific Strategies for Specific Exercises