Most students do not look forward to standardized tests, even if these students are good test takers. Unlike with regular school assignments, where there is a general safety net since you have many assignments and thus, the ability to do better later on, standardized tests are usually not taken more than once. If a student does not prepare well, or he or she simply have a bad start to the test date, it can be very stressful for him or her.

Learning how to approach standardized tests, and how to prepare in general, can be very helpful for students who just need that little extra bit of motivation, guidance, or training. Simply tweaking your approach to test taking can result in a much better grade, depending on your needs and your goals.

For instance, bringing a water bottle to your test might be a good strategy if you know you will get bathroom breaks. Water hydrates you and refreshes you, which can be very helpful if you feel your brain slowing down. Simply pausing, taking a sip of water, and returning your test can mean the difference between choosing a correct answer and an incorrect one on a multiple-choice question.

Here are three time-tested tips to use when answering questions on a standardized test:

  • Underline all the words that you find important in a question. Sometimes, the tests will have these words underlined or bolded for you. This is good because it saves you time and focus that you can use when actually answering the question. However, the first tip is to emphasize what is important and what is being asked of you.
  • Eliminate anything you think is a wrong answer. Obviously, this strategy works better with multiple choice questions rather than short answer questions. With essay questions, you can always write some quick notes to structure your eventual answer. As you are creating this basic structure, you will be evaluating the information you find important. In addition, creating a structure in the margins of your page or scratch paper will allow you to create a better, more structured, answer.
  • Make a mark next to questions you initially find difficult, move on, and return to these difficult questions once all other questions have been answered. Your time is limited in test taking situations and you need to use every second you have wisely. You may even find that, by moving on, you are able better evaluate the information you skipped, once you return to them. Sometimes important details from other questions will help you recall the answer to a previous question you found difficult.

There are many things you can do outside of the classroom that will help you prepare for these major tests as well. These include:

  • One of the most important things you can do is to ensure that you get a good night’s sleep before any major test. Getting a proper sleep will allow you to think clearly and stay focused.
  • Eating a major meal before your test. Brain food does exist and making sure you eat a healthy meal will help your brain, keep your mind on the questions and off your stomach. Like eating, make sure you drink lots of water to stay hydrated and to avoid suffering from headaches.
  • Exercise frequently. For many of us, exercising can feel like a chore. Still, exercise is very important in maintaining a healthy body and mind.
  • Develop study methods that work for you. Everyone studies differently. You must find out what methods work for you. This could include studying in groups, rewriting your notes, watching educational videos on the topic, or trying to teach the material to others.

Lastly, remember to breathe and relax. These tests will not decide your entire future. A bad score can be overcome and you will still be able to get into a solid college program and land a good job in the future. When taking the test, do your best, and remember to take it one question at a time.