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How to Benefit from Practice Tests

By Ava Kesler

Once you get over the motivation barriers, it's easy to take a practice test. Answer the questions and call it a day.

Practice tests are so simple because the consequences of you missing a question are low. The mass amount of content on the test gives us this mindset that we can miss any number of questions and be fine in the long run.

But, this doesn't really help us.

You could get to the real test, not know how to do a question, but remember that you also didn't know how to do it on a practice test you took.

So clearly, you have to get something out of each practice test you take.

But how?

Many subjects ask questions that depend on you having a certain skill set or background knowledge that you can actually apply. This makes every question seem totally different based on the context. So, assuming you understand the wording and test style, no matter how many times you reread the question, you're not going to get anything out of it.

This is what makes so many exams so difficult. Many people do not realize how to study, and they may practice day and night, but if they don't apply the following strategies, nothing will happen.

To actually gain something meaningful from your practice tests, after every test, look at the questions you got wrong.

Then, make a list of the topics these questions were about. Depending on the subject, this could be formulas for math, a certain time period for history, or a type of molecule for biology.

Next, study up on these topics. More than likely, you're just a little rusty in these areas. If you want, write some notes under each topic.

Keep a running study guide. You could just write notes in the margin of your practice test. But these test are often 10+ pages long. When it boils down to the week before the exam, you are not going to want to flip through hundreds of pages just for some tiny notes in margins. It's overwhelming, time consuming, and useless. Instead, keep your list of topics and any notes you made about them in a separate area, such as in a Google Doc. By the end of the all your practice tests, you will have a page or two of material to review. This is optimal because it is focused on your own personalized needs as a student, explaining all the topics that you found the most troubling. This is better than any other pre-made study guide you could find.


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