Today is the Day: Taking a Test


Credit: Olivia Harvey

In this installment of “Today is the Day,” guest writer Emma Marton discusses test-taking and provides some tips.

Emma Marton

Test-taking is a skill. And, as sorry as I am to say this, it is a hard skill. Now you might be thinking, “I’m in high school, I know how to take a test.” However, the best test takers also have struggles and off days. No matter how well you know the material, feeling sick can throw you off your game. Not only that, but a couple of hard questions, a lack of sleep, a bad test-taking environment and a whole lot of other factors could pull you down. Here’s what I keep in mind while taking a test so that I can do my best.

This first tip comes from my mother, math teacher Ms. Marton, and it’s RTDQ. That stands for “Read the Darn Question.” So many points can be saved using this motto. To me, nothing is worse than losing points over silly mistakes. Keeping this saying in my mind can help me avoid these little errors. It won’t fix them, of course, but it lessens your chance of making them in the first place.

Another simple suggestion is basic but effective: don’t panic. I’m sure you’ve heard this one over and over. Skip the hard questions, don’t worry about it, etc. But that’s hard to focus on when you’re actually taking the test. Suddenly, the fact that you don’t know how to do questions five and seven seem to be the end of it all. A thought process can go through your head, making you think, “oh no, I’m failing this test, my parents are gonna be mad at me, I’m gonna fail and have to flip burgers for the rest of my life.” This distracts you from the test and wastes precious time. It also makes your confidence plummet, and you need confidence to do your best. What I do – and while this works for me, it may not work for you – is tell myself to snap out of it. I remind myself that it’s just one test in high school! I then think of something good I’ve done recently. Something like “I got a 95 on the last test, I can do this,” helps me remember that I have the ability to succeed.  

Make your test-taking environment as comfortable as possible. I like to get to my classroom as early as I can so that I can find a desk that doesn’t wobble. If you get distracted by noise, ask your teacher if you can wear earplugs to block it out (make sure to ask first, though, because it’s not a guarantee your teacher will be okay with it). It’s silly, but make sure you wear enough layers so that you’re not cold. Also, if you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the test, use it! You might be thinking that doing so wastes precious time, but you’ll be wasting more throughout the test thinking about how much you need to go. Use the quick walk as a breather and a refresher. Find whatever it is that makes you feel as comfortable as possible while taking a test.

One of the first things you should do is to write down important information as soon as you get the test. If you keep forgetting a formula you know you’ll need, write it down. Even before you write your name, put whatever it is you’re likely to forget up top. Being able to go back and look at it will put your mind at ease, which will save you time that you would have spent trying to remember that piece of information.

My last tip also comes from my mother. This one is about time management. Go through your test and see which questions will take you the most time/are the hardest, then do those last. She recommends doing the easiest questions first because it gets you a lot of points quickly, and it boosts your confidence. If it’s a calculator and non-calculator exam, don’t spend too much time on one or the other.

I realize, as I write this, that I sound very hypocritical. I make a lot of silly mistakes, I don’t always remember to get comfy, I spend too much time on the wrong problems and I spiral. I have bad tests, but I also have a lot more good tests than I used to. Learn from your past difficulties to find what will help you succeed in the future – because it may not be what I, or anybody else, has suggested. And remember, it’s just high school, after all.

Opinion articles written by staff members represent their personal views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent WSPN as a publication.