Test Taking Strategies

test taking image

Pre Exam Prep

  • Get plenty of rest.
    • Misreading a question is increased when students are fatigued when entering a testing session.
    • Students who study through the night are prone to reading errors that generally occur near the end of the exam when your energy and concentration is depleted.
  • Know where you will sit.
    • Pick an area where you are sure to avoid distractions.

Taking the Exam

  • Follow the instructions.
    • Make sure you understand the rules for writing notes, and know what materials you are allowed to have with you during the exam.
  • Read each question carefully.
    • Avoid skimming a question; you might fail to notice important components of the question.
    • Misreading or misinterpreting a question most commonly occurs with questions written in the clinical vignette format where information is included, some of which is essential while some in only included to make the case appear realistic.
  • Eliminate answer choices you know are incorrect.
  • If possible, try to anticipate the answer before you are distracted by the answer choices provided.
  • Pace yourself
    • Look over the entire test, see how many questions are on the exam, and determine how much time you need for each question.
    • Errors are more likely to occur when students lose track of time and find themselves with more questions than they have time for.
    • Make time to go over questions you marked unsure.
    • Try not to rush the exam; you are more likely to miss important information and cues.
    • Be sure to leave time at the end to review your test.
  • Review your answer choices carefully.
    • Transcription errors occur when answers are originally marked on the exam document and then transferred to the answer sheet incorrectly.
    • Do not change your answers unless you are sure you misread the question, or if you have realized the original answer is incorrect.


Test Anxiety

Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety. It is a combination of mental and physical components of stress associated with test taking. While small amounts of increased anxiety levels can help you do better on a test, higher levels of anxiety can interfere with your test performance.

To help reduce test anxiety here is what you can do in the days leading up to and during your test.

  • Develop good study habits early.
  • Be prepared
  • Don’t pay attention to what others are doing
    • Pat attention to your own test and pace, forget about the other students in the room.
  • Use relaxation techniques when you are feeling tense.
    • Deep breathing can slow down a racing heart or a racing mind.
  • Challenge anxious thoughts
    • Use self-talk to bring your anxiety down. Think you yourself “I can do this.”
  • Keep the exam in perspective
    • Doing well is important, but also it is not the end of your medical career. Understand that there are always more important things in life than the result of one test.
  • Be Mindful
    • Accept that you are going to feel anxious during the test. Try to co-exist with the anxiety- you can feel anxious and still perform well. Rather than focus on your internal experiences (your thoughts and physical reactions) - focus on the material in front of you.
  • Learn good test taking strategies
    • Don’t get stuck on a question- move on come back to it later. The goal is to use your time wisely without overly focusing on time and other ideas you cannot control.