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Test-Taking is a Skill You Can PerfectPractice is the most important key to success on standardized exams. The best way to improve your skills is to practice with older versions of the test. Adhere to time limits in order to learn how to focus on a multiple-hour exam. When you feel confident and prepared, you are far more likely to score well.
Avoid Skimping on SleepWorking through the evening may enable you to finish a paper or project, but it is a poor exam prep technique. The average standardized test is an exercise in endurance. Approaching an exam—any exam—without adequate sleep leaves your mind struggling to make the necessary connections. Note, too, that caffeine is not a substitute for proper rest. Schedule at least eight hours of sleep the night before your test.
Ignore RumorsUnless a teacher specifically tells you what an exam will assess, do not trust rumors regarding tests. While general advice is often helpful, your perception of an exam will depend on your individual learning style. Gossip about tests can make even the simplest questions seem impossible, so take all rumors with a grain of salt and stick to the facts you know.
Seek Out Prep ResourcesMany students require additional help to master the material on an exam or in a class—even with test-taking strategies themselves. Now is the time to ask for that help, before you become completely overwhelmed. Early in the year, decide whom you can go to, whether that is a teacher, a parent, a member of the support staff, or a tutor whom you trust. Asking for help can be difficult, especially for strong students. Not only does it mean admitting that you cannot solve the problem on your own, but reliable help can be hard to find. The best way to attack a year of important exams is with a source of academic support. Ask around now for the resources you may need later. Even if you do not end up utilizing that extra support, it is always wise to have a safety net. Junior year means learning about yourself, too. Ensure you take the time to understand how you study best, where you study most efficiently, and how to de-stress. Best of luck!
Andrea Deck is a professional GRE tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She is a graduate student at Columbia University in the class of 2015.