Keep Calm and Get Straight A’s: What to Do Before, During and After Every Test

Have you been studying like a fiend, but not getting the test results you want? You’re not alone. Here are some tips and tricks I researched to get you back in the A Zone.

Pre-Test

Use the method of loci. Most of the time, the classroom your lectures are held in is the same room you’ll write your test in. All you need to do is associate a concept or topic to an object in the room. During the test, you’ll just have to recall the associations you made beforehand.

People need space. Space your studying sessions out into small chunks. Some students believe studying too early to a test is pointless because you’re likely to forget what you studied in the first few days. However, science shows students retain a greater chunk of information covered over several shorter sessions than cramming an entire course in one night. It’s true.

An active student defeats a passive one. Literally and figuratively. Don’t just read in your head. Read aloud. Better yet, as you read your notes, jot down key points. When possible, get a bit of exercise before any test to boost your memory and energy levels.

Be a morning bird and a night owl. Even if you despise mornings, there are benefits to studying soon after you wake up. Your brain has more room to absorb information at the start of the day. With enough sleep, you’ll be well-rested and able to better concentrate. Studying in natural light is also better for your eyes. In fact, too much exposure to artificial light can affect your natural sleep rhythm. That said, reviewing your notes before you go to bed does more good than harm. While you’re asleep, your brain reinforces new memories. So if you need to remember something important, try studying it right before you doze off. But don’t turn your quick review into an all-night cramming session.

Over the span of a month, a student who uses different studying methods retains four times more information than their peers.

Different is good. You are more likely to remember something you learn multiple ways. Even if you’re confident you know a fact or formula, study it again but in a different manner. Learning the material differently helps you retain the information over a longer period of time. Read your textbook. Write some notes. Watch a video. Say it aloud. Teach the concept to somebody else. Over the span of a month, a student who uses different studying methods retains four times more information than their peers. Also, if you’re someone who doesn’t review until the day before a test, chances are you’ve forgotten over eighty percent of what was taught in class.

Mocking is a good thing. Test yourself or get a friend to quiz you. Try to simulate the real thing. Create a mock test with similar questions to the actual assessment. Sit down in a quiet room and time yourself accordingly. This will help you figure out what you already know and what you don’t know.

During the Test

Spray away. It’s been proven that scents jog your memory. Remember the tip about chewing gum while you study and chewing the same flavour of gum when you’re taking a test? It works. If you aren’t a gum-chewer, you can spray perfume or cologne instead. Just don’t overdo it with the Axe, guys.

Dump away. Brain dumps are easy, simple, and take little time to execute. While the information is still fresh in your mind, write down anything you might forget: acronyms, dates, facts. You could do this on a scrap piece of paper or on the test itself and erase it later. This way you can refer to what you know during the entire test without worrying that you might mix up or forget any crucial details.

Post-Test

Correct the incorrect. That way when you look back at your former tests, you’ll know where you went wrong. Unless you’re a genius who got perfect. In that case, as you were.

Learn from the past so you can change your future. Revisiting previous tests can be an embarrassing experience, but a beneficial one. By reviewing former assessments, you will strengthen the concepts you’ve already learned. Many courses build on basic concepts, so ensuring your core foundation is strong will help you succeed later on. More importantly, you can use old tests to understand what your professors are truly looking for. And how they grade subjective questions.

This article is a follow-up to Ten Tried and True Test Taking Techniques.

What do you do before, during, or after every test? Leave your best advice down below.

Herminia Chow

Herminia Chow

Herminia Chow is currently attending the University of Toronto. She hopes to major in Book and Media Studies while doing a double minor in Linguistics along with Writing and Rhetoric. She is a writer, a blogger, and an avid reader of all things.