Before Arriving at the Test

Give your brain a rest before you head to your test.  Consider:

  • Quick exercise to help with attention and overall cognition
  • Yoga or meditation to calm yourself
  • Listening to music, or anything else to help you relax.

Eat enough to give you necessary fuel, but not too much to make you sluggish.  Read these tips on exam day nutrition.

Give yourself plenty of time to arrive with time to spare so you can get mentally and physically settled.


Before Starting to Answer Test Questions

A) Survey the test: How many questions?  What type of questions?  How are the points distributed?

B) Make a plan of attack so you can earn as many points as possible in the given time. Decide the order in which you’ll approach each question and how you’ll allocate time.  Write your plan on the test or on a scrap of paper.

* Idea:  Complete test sections in order of their overall value so you will earn the most possible points if you run out of time to finish the test.

  • Consider a 50 minute test consisting of:
    • 15 Multiple Choice Questions – 30 overall points
    • 5 Short Answer Questions – 10 overall points
    • 1 Essay Question – 60 overall points
  • Given the distribution of points, allocate your time among the three sections in the following order:
    • Essay: 30 minutes (60% of your time because it’s worth 60% of the points)
    • Multiple Choice: 15 Minutes (30% of your time, 30% of points)
    • Short Answers: 5 minutes (10 % of your time, 10% of points)

* Idea:  Complete test in order of questions you know the best.  Like above, this will earn you the most possible points in case you can’t finish entire test.

C) Any formulas or facts you’ve memorized? Before starting the exam, write the ones you are least confident about on a scrap of paper; this will free you to work on harder cognitive tasks during the test.


While Taking the Test

Keep track of time so you can follow your plan of attack.  Wear a watch and use it.

Read questions actively.  Underline key words and eliminate any distractors. Restate the essence of the question in your own words.

Stuck on a question?  Peruse the exam for possible hints found in other questions. Or simply move on to the next question you can answer.

Feeling anxious?  Read our handout on Tackling Test Anxiety.

Read our handouts for specific tips on Multiple Choice.


Download PDF: Test Day Game Plan

REMEMBER: The UNC Learning Center is a great resource! Both Peer Tutoring and Academic Coaching can help you create a balanced approach to succeeding at Carolina. Our friendly staff is ready to help – drop by or make an appointment!

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Learning Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-2-33-02-pm