Tests are an unavoidable part of the educational system. Some very intelligent people experience test anxiety and can wind up getting lower grades even when they know more than other students who score higher. Other students suffer at tests because they take too long and may not actually complete the test. Learning how to manage your test time wisely can be key in getting the best possible grade.

Read or listen to the directions carefully. Very often the reason you take longer on a test than you expect is because you don’t fully understand what you are supposed to do. The instructions may state that your answer should be less than 50 words--so if you write 100 words, not only are you unnecessarily slowing yourself down, but you’re also going to get a lower grade.

Preview the test before you settle into answering the questions. Look for how the test is divided among true/false, multiple choice, short answer and essay questions. Focus on the type of question that you answer best in order to ensure that you will at least finish that part.

Check to see the value of the sections. If you are faster at multiple choice but the essay question counts for 35 percent more, then head for the essay question first because it is much easier to speed through multiple choice as your deadline is approaching than it is to speed through an essay with the clock ticking down.

Never linger over a single question when you’ve got plenty of others to answer. Make a mark next to the question so you can remember to come back to it, and then move on to other questions. Not only will this speed up your time by helping you avoid taking too long on one question, but you may find that a later question might actually help you answer the more difficult question.

Practice writing an essay before the day of the test. If you know your instructor prefers essay questions or you know for sure there will be an essay on the test, practice writing one beforehand. You probably won’t know the specific topic of the essay, so try coming up with topics yourself and write several. For instance, if the test is going to be on a piece of literature you’ve read, then write a practice essay about the major topics that were covered in class. Writing a practice essay ahead of time can alleviate essay question anxiety, familiarize you with the key aspects of the subject and give you a preconceived idea of where you can go with the essay. This cuts down on the time you would otherwise spend in class forming the idea itself.

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