Strategies to Ace Your Next Online Test
November 29th, 2011 by Dr. Bruce Johnson
Many online schools incorporate tests and quizzes into the curriculum as a supplemental assessment, often as an addition to weekly assignments. A test is designed to assess what is known about the course topics and the questions can likely be answered after a review of the course materials. This sounds simple enough; however, many online students do not have an effective method for test preparation and that can translate into poor performance. To ace any test, it is important to identify potential causes of test anxiety and then develop pre-test, during test, and post-test strategies so your time and results can be maximized.
Understanding Test Anxiety
As you think about an upcoming test or exam, you may experience anxiety, which a natural response to stressful conditions. There are two types of anxiety — facilitating and debilitating — which are similar to good stress and bad stress. Facilitating anxiety is comparable to good stress because it serves as a source of motivation to succeed and helps you to improve your performance. For example, if you experience anxiety, but use that feeling to compel you to study and be prepared for the test; you are likely to perform well.
In contrast, debilitating anxiety is an emotional reaction that has a negative impact on your test-taking performance because this type of anxiety escalates, making test-taking unmanageable. It often includes feeling overwhelmed by the process and fearful of the outcome, which may lead to procrastination or postponing your study time.
The first step in the development of a pre-test strategy is to make a study plan. This can be accomplished by budgeting time to study and utilizing a note-taking strategy or reading strategy so that you have important information organized and easily accessible. Many students also learn through repetition and study for an exam by making flash cards and developing their own test questions. On the other hand, the most ineffective preparation method is to “cram,” or studying only the night before a test is scheduled because you are unlikely to remember most of the information. Keep in mind that the more you study, the more information you retain because it is stored in your long-term memory.
The next step is to schedule a time for the online test. There are several important considerations that every student should review. First, consider your energy level and the time of day you are likely to be alert and relaxed. Next, consider the environment where you will be taking the test. Your surroundings should be free of potential distractions, which will allow you to concentrate on the test. In addition, it is a good idea to schedule the test time prior to the due date, in the event that something unexpected occurs.
During Test Strategy
As you prepare to take the test, find a place that is comfortable, but doesn’t allow you to feel too relaxed. This is especially important for students taking a test at the end of a busy day. In addition, have important contact information on hand, including technical support and a method for contacting your instructor if it becomes necessary. If the test is timed, there is often a clock or timer on the test screen; however, it is helpful to also have your own timer present as a back-up. You should plan to complete the exam before the time limit is up so that all of your answers are properly saved and recorded. Once you are ready to begin, take a deep breath and release any tension so you can do your best.
Once the exam has begun, be certain to read all of the instructions very carefully. Be sure to frequently save your responses so that your answers are not lost in the event of a technical issue. If your Internet connection is disrupted at any time, try to access the exam again. If you are unable to continue the exam, follow the required procedures and either contact technical support or your instructor.
There are three types of questions that are commonly utilized for online tests. The first type is a problem-solving question. When you are asked to solve a problem, read the scenario thoroughly, determine what the potential solution may be, compare your answer to the list of possible answers, and then review the question again prior to answering it. If the question appears to be too complex, make a note of it and return to it after you have completed the easier questions first.
The second type of test question is a true/false question. The first method of assessing the answer to a true/false question is to determine if any part of the question is false. If there is any false element or false aspect of the question, then the entire question is false. In contrast, the reverse is not accurate. If there are elements of the question that are true, you must still determine if the entire question is true. All aspects of the question must be true for the question to be answered as true.
A multiple choice question is the third common form of online test question. An effective technique for answering multiple choice questions is to develop a possible answer before you read through the list of choices. This will help you recall what you know about the topic and allow you to sort through the possible answers. As you continue, be sure that you read through all of the answers very carefully, even if you have picked an answer you believe is correct. There are times when one answer is a better choice than another.
If you cannot make a decision about the answer to a multiple choice question, first rule out any answers that you know are not correct. Next, look for keywords in the remaining list that will help you match it to the question. You can also re-word the question to better understand its meaning. Keep your eye on the timer throughout this process and be careful about spending too much time on one question.
Once the test has been completed, an effective post-test strategy is to evaluate your performance. This is a good opportunity to assess the effectiveness of your pre-test and during test strategies so that you will perform well in the future. Consider what worked well for your preparation period, how you managed anxiety, the working conditions established for the exam, and how effectively you were able to read and comprehend the meaning of the test questions.
The process of testing can cause anxiety for online students because the majority of work completed in this learning environment is based upon research and the development of papers or class postings. A timed exam requires students to demonstrate their knowledge quickly and in a format that may not be easily understood. The most effective means of acing a test is to develop a set of strategies that allows you to feel prepared and ready to concentrate on the task at hand, while minimizing the potential for stress.
Photo: © Hill Street Studios/Blend Images/Corbis