Tips for Boosting Test Results!

I’ve taken a lot of tests—not as many as some, thanks to my liberal arts undergraduate education, but nonetheless, standardized testing has been a feature for over half of my life. I’ve done the PSAT, SAT, several SAT subject tests, GRE, GRE subject tests, the LSAT, and public school tests whose acronyms I no longer recall. Though each test interrogates a particular area of knowledge, these exams have more in common than what may at first meet the eye. Though there’s no silver bullet to beating a test, I think that the following can boost anyone’s performance.


  1. Keep in mind that what you’re actually being tested on are your analytical and critical reasoning skills. Nothing can replace actually knowing the material, but you can strategize your approach. Remember that complicated word problems, convoluted multiple choice prompts, and seemingly impenetrable equations, can mostly be boiled down to a simply-worded question. A lot of what gets packed into these prompts are conditional clauses, qualifiers, or unnecessary adjectives—make sure you’re able to cut through the noise and find the real question.
  2. Manage your emotions and keep your cool. Whether you’re making a schedule, studying, or (horrors!) cramming, keeping yourself level-headed and emotionally intact is paramount. Prep tests, workloads, and thoughts about the future can be really overwhelming—this has always been the hardest part for me to manage. What if I don’t do well? Can I still do the program I’m interested in? Will I be successful in my professional life? These are questions that can drive you to the edge, so it’s important to think about them in bite-sized pieces. Don’t try to envision your entire academic career in one sitting; don’t think about the twelve chapters of material you need to learn. Instead, remind yourself that there are a multitude of paths to success, and think about what you have to learn today. If the sections you’re working on are too big, get someone to help you break them down—thinking about three pages of material is a lot easier to handle than three hundred!
  3. Lifestyle: eat well, get some exercise, drink a lot of water, limit your caffeine, and try to sleep enough. Your brain is part of your body, and it needs nourishment and blood flow just like any other part. A healthy lifestyle can help you learn more efficiently, stay in control of your stress, and will help you be calm and alert on testing day. Fifteen minutes of jogging five days a week will do more for your physical and mental state than a killer work out one or two days a week—keep it regular, develop a routine that works for you, and be realistic. Eat your veggies, and plenty of protein. If you’re prone to the study-hole lifestyle, then writing down and sticking to a dietary, exercise, and sleep regimen can really perk up your mental, emotional, and physical capacities.


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