Getting the Most Out of a Practice Test

November-28-2018
Getting the Most Out of a Practice Test

Even the most intelligent professionals and the most avid learners feel their heart skip a beat when they hear the word "exam." Maybe you're facing a certification exam, an entrance exam, or simply an exam to test your knowledge on a subject. No matter what type of test is in your future, you know that preparation is key and that confidence going into the test can make or break your score. Researchers have confirmed that practice tests are more beneficial or learning and information retention, so you're fully on board to take numerous practice tests to assure you get the best results possible on your upcoming exam. But how do you make the most out of a practice test? How do you ensure that you are using your time wisely in your test preparation and not just wasting it answering a bunch of questions that stress you out? Check out our top tips to get the most out of practice tests so you're sure to excel on your next educational or professional test.

Start Early with Test Preparation

Everyone knows that waiting until the last minute to prepare for a test is unwise. If you're taking an important certification test or a test that will determine your admissions to a particular school or company, it's even more important that you start as early as possible. This may mean scheduling your test out a little later than you originally planned, and it may mean saying no to some social events so you can prepare for your test. The earlier the start preparing, the better, as it will give you more time to feel good about your practice test scores so that you can go into the actual test with confidence.

Study Before You Take the First Practice Test

Some people like to begin their test prep with a practice test to gauge where they are, and that can be beneficial for some. But if you feel unprepared to take the actual test now, chances are that taking a practice test now isn't really going to help. You probably already know a lot of the areas where you need to study and learn more, so start by reviewing what you think you need to, and spend some time really going over the information that you're uncomfortable with. If you do choose to begin your test preparation with a practice test, don't get discouraged if your score is lower than you hoped, and be sure to put in some good study time before you take another practice test.

Mimic Test-Day Conditions

When you sit down to take the practice tests, do your best to create the conditions that will occur on test day. Don't have your phone next to you, eliminate distractions caused by other people, technology, and more, and be sure to use only the resources allowed to you during the actual test. If you can use a calculator, have that on hand. But if you won't have access to a textbook, put it somewhere else so you're not tempted to use it during the test. Let roommates, parents, or other nearby people know that you're completing a practice test and that you need to be left alone for a while so you can focus on doing it well.

Stick to Appropriate Time Limits

Professional and educational tests have very strict time limits. Stick to those during your at-home practice testing to further mimic the test-day conditions. If you finish a section early, don't move on right away. Instead, do what you would do during the actual test and go over your answers. If you get a 10-minute break during the actual test, take a 10-minute break during the practice test. And don't use that break to check Facebook or update your Instagram—spend it calming your mind, using the restroom, getting a sip of water, and focusing on the rest of the test that you have ahead.

Debrief After Each Practice Test, Then Study Some More

As you look over your completed practice tests and evaluate your grades, be sure to keep track of particular problem areas, as well as areas of strength. If you aced an entire section on a particular subject, make a note not to review that topic much more. At the same time, if there is a particular topic or concept that you really struggled with on the test, make a note to review and intensely study that area. Learn what your strengths and weaknesses are after each test, and make a plan to study appropriately moving forward. There is no use wasting your time looking over concepts you've already mastered when you could be spending your time going over unfamiliar topics.

Include Short & Long Practice Tests

Be sure to take at least one full-length practice test in one sitting. This is usually most effective when taken within a week of the actual test and when you give yourself time to debrief from the test and make appropriate changes to your studying. However, throughout your test preparation, you can take shorter practice tests or complete just one section of the full-length test at a time to give yourself test experience and test your knowledge of smaller chunks of content and information. Doing some shorter tests amongst the longer ones will help you not to burn out of practice tests while still giving you valuable experience and information during your test preparation.

Embrace the Growth Mindset

Be sure to approach each practice test as a step in your learning. These are not meant to be comprehensive evaluations of your knowledge, skills, or abilities. They are meant to be stepping stones towards your end goal, which will be the result of a good score on your test—getting into college, attaining a certification, proving your knowledge of a topic, and so on. Practice tests are learning tools, and they should be treated as such. When you utilize efficient study practices, helpful test-taking strategies, and confident approaches to learning, education, and professional development, you're sure to achieve your dreams and accomplish your goals.

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