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Study Skills – Test Taking Strategies For High School Students

In high school, every teacher is different, therefore every exam will be different as well. While there is no universal key to taking exams, there are a few general rules that will help you.

Read the Instructions

Read the instructions and the questions fully. Even if you have taken similar exams in the past, don’t assume you know exactly what your teacher wants without reading the instructions. Look for key words that might trip you up, such as “which answer is incorrect,” or “which choice does not fit”. Typically, during exams you are looking for correct answers, but every now and then the questions can ask for something different. If you are not paying attention to the language of the questions or instructions, you may miss these key details.

Keep Going

Don’t linger over problems you don’t get right away. When a problem is giving you particular difficulty, skip it and come back to it. You don’t want to miss easy question because you spent too much time on a difficult one. Once you have answered the easier problems, go back and work on the more difficult questions.


Always review your answers. When you have finished with extra time, go back and make sure you put down the right answer for each question. If you don’t have much time, just go back to the most difficult questions and check your work. There is no reward for being the first to hand in a test. Take your time, pace yourself, and review your work.


When you are taking short answer or essay tests, work to make sure your writing is legible. This may seem obvious, but when you are hurried or nervous, it is easy to write words that cannot be read by the grader. If your teacher can’t read your answer, you will lose points.

Extra Credit

After you get your exam back, if you are not satisfied with your score, meet with your teacher. Sit down and talk about what you didn’t understand. Your teacher will appreciate your initiative and maybe even give you the opportunity to make up your score with extra credit. Even if you don’t get extra credit, reviewing your test with your teacher will help you learn the material for the next exam so that you can improve. Exams are usually cumulative in high school, so if you don’t work to understand what you got wrong on this exam you are not likely to get a better score on the next exam.


A little effort, focus, and some key strategies will help you perform your best on your high school exams. The more exams you take, the easier it will be to focus and perform well. Take advantage of every opportunity to study and improve your test taking skills.


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