The Science Butler - Blog

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The #1 Test-Taking Strategy You NEED To Know

Have you ever felt completely prepared for a test or exam and then ended up totally bombing it?  You studied, read the textbook, completed practice problems, maybe even received tutoring, and you still didn’t pass.  What happened?  You most likely fell into what I call the Pit of Despair early on during the test and it was all downhill from there.  You came across a question that you weren’t confident about so you spent several minutes just staring at it, hoping that something would come to you.  During those few crucial minutes, your self-confidence plummeted and every question after that made you doubt yourself.  It may have even been questions about material you confidently knew, but now you just couldn’t be sure.  Ugh, the agony!!!


The mind can be a tricky thing.  We all have that inner voice that tells us when to double check something, when to be cautious and what the right thing to do is.  Usually that inner voice is a welcomed reasoning tool.  But sometimes that inner voice embodies all of our self-doubt.  You may feel a tinge of uncertainty about your answer to a test question, but your self-doubt starts screaming inside your head “Nooooo, that’s not the right answer choice! You don’t actually know anything!  You’re going to fail!!!!”    Welcome to the Pit of Despair.  At this point, you can kiss any chance of making an “A” good-bye.  Every answer will cause you to rethink everything you know.  You will even go back and check the questions you had already answered and start to doubt those answers too!  As a teacher, I can’t tell you how many times I heard “Oh man, I had the right answer but then went back and changed it at the end!”  Answer documents will be riddled with erasure marks only to find that those erased original answers were correct.   It doesn’t have to end this way! 


The first step to avoiding the Pit of Despair is listening to your gut instinct.  It will almost always steer you in the right direction.  Most likely you have experienced your gut instinct leading you to choose the correct answer.  You read a test question, knew the answer before you even read the answer choices, looked down, saw your answer listed, chose it, and quickly moved on.  That feeling is amazing!  Even blissful!  You can guarantee that answer is right.  But let’s say you come across a question that you don’t know as well.  What do you do?  It’s simple….MOVE ON!  Circle that question, maybe underline a few key words that you know are key to figuring out the answer, but then MOVE ON.  Skip it and start reading the next question.  This will surely help you avoid falling into the wretched Pit of Despair. 


By moving on, you have saved your self-confidence and allowed yourself to answer the other questions with certainty. After you have finished the test, you can then go back and read over those skipped questions again.  Not only do you still have your self-confidence intact, but you also have the information given to you in the other test questions to use as clues to answer the skipped questions.  It’s a win-win situation! 


So next time you feel yourself starting to slide down the slippery slope of the Pit of Despair, remember this…MOVE ON!   Don’t let your self-doubt get the best of you.  Even if you have to skip the next question…and the next question…it’s all good because you will eventually come across a question that you confidently know and answer with certainty.  Give your self-confidence a chance.  You got this!