It’s half a century since I discovered that the advice I was getting was rubbish. Just study hard and you’ll pass your exams! The most knowledgeable student will fail without test taking strategies. Are you still hearing the same misleading advice?
This article is about test taking strategies, essays
You Surely Don’t Believe You Can Pass Exams Without Test Taking Strategies
Test Taking is Unfair. Make the unfairness work for you.
“…the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill, but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)
When Life Hands You A Lemon
Sell lemonade. Life is unfair, so test taking strategies are a great introduction to life. You could organise student marches to protest against test taking, but nobody would take any notice. So take advantage of test taking strategies.
Think about it. The alternative could be even more unfair. Imagine what it would be like if your teacher could just choose which students would pass, and which ones would fail without any test taking strategies to help you. I know that I would have passed fewer exams that way!
Do you remember when you were a child playing games? Did you keep changing the rules to suit you? When you find a system that victimises group A and favours group B, you must twist the rules so that you fit into group B. Nothing has really changed for test taking strategies.
Have you ever watched a quiz on TV and thought “Who cares? – What has that got to do with real life?” That is how I see test taking strategies. You aim to win with test taking strategies regardless of the triviality of the exams.
If you are learning to write computer programs your exams will ask you for the dates of the first computer, or when different computer languages were invented. Does that show that you are a better programmer? Of course not.
It is unfair. Just learn the dates and other trivia to benefit from the unfairness with your test taking strategies.
Essay Test Taking
Most exams contain essay questions. These are heavily biased in favour of journalists. So what should you do? All together now… Become a journalist!
You can know ten times as much about your subject as the winner of the exams. But he knew all the journalistic tricks for test taking strategies.
Slow handwriting can severely handicap you. Choose an efficient style of handwriting as described in my book about exams. Then practice taking dictation from the radio. Think about the words as you write – not about the letters. Fast writing helps with your test taking strategies.
Misleading questions: examine each question thoroughly for double meanings, or specialist language. I once failed an essay question that asked me to write about the mechanics of a plant. I wrote an excellent essay on the subject, but got only 2 marks out of 20. When I complained, the professor explained that he wanted me to write about the mechanical strengthening of the xylem and phloem. He admitted that I had answered the question as he had written it, but wouldn’t change his marks for it.
My book about test taking strategies gives you two examples of how to answer an essay question when you don’t know anything about the answer.
Trick Questions: MC exams are too easy. You don’t have to think of the right answer – only recognise it when you see it. So examiners always include several trick questions to prevent you getting 100% with your test taking strategies.
Photographic memory for test taking: you can pass if you remember well, without understanding anything. Your knowledge will be completely useless, but you will have passed.
Chance: if there are 4 alternatives for each answer, you have a 25% chance of passing the paper by answering at random.
Using test taking strategies you can push this chance away up. Remember, you already know at least something about the subject. Use the unfairness in your favour.
I’ve passed the exam – you haven’t
My university classmates used to love making lecturers admit that they didn’t know something. Then they would ask “Aren’t you supposed to know?” The lecturer would always answer “I’ve passed the exams – you haven’t.”
That is the glaring unfairness in test taking. You will probably never use your knowledge again. I passed my calculus test taking. Ten years later I needed to use calculus for the first time. I had forgotten how, so got a student to do the job for me. His test taking was ahead of him!
Yes. Exams are unfair. They are very unfair. But I like it that way. I’ve passed my exams (including ones I didn’t deserve to pass) and you haven’t yet.