While taking my engineering course this past semester, I thought back after each exam to see how I could have earned more points on each one. These are a few test-taking strategies that I found that might help a student to improve his/her score:
Once you are seated: relax, do not panic. It is very important to understand that nothing on the test is new; everything is material that you have seen before either in class or on the homework. Be confident and think positive.
Start by writing your name and then take a quick glance to the whole test. Read every problem and then start by solving the problem that seems to be the easiest for you.
Once you start solving, read the problem very carefully. Make sure you understand the problem completely and especially what you are asked to solve for. If there is something that you do not understand, like a sentence that is not clear, or the meaning of a word that you do not know, ask the teacher. Sometimes, the teacher might write a problem statement that apparently makes sense to him, but that does not mean that it will make sense to you. Never hesitate to ask questions.
When you encounter a problem that seems to be rather difficult, skip it, and continue with the rest of the problems. Do not waste your time thinking through a problem that is going to take a long time when the same amount of time can be used to solve two or even more problems.
There is nothing worse than looking through the whole test and not writing anything. Once you read the problem, sketch it, write the formula, etc., but do something. Do not leave the test blank. Write as much information as you can even if you are not sure if it is the right method. There is a good chance that you might arrive to the right answer by accident, or it is possible that once you have the information from the problem written that you are going to be able to figure out the problem.
As it was mentioned above, write as much information as you can. Do not worry if it that does not seem to be relevant to the solution of the problem. It might even help you to get more points. Also, do not erase anything. Whatever you write down, leave it there, even if you realize later that you are not going to need it for your solution.
If you notice that you are going to spend plenty of time on a problem, write all the information that you can and proceed with the other the problems. If you think you are not going to be able to finish a problem but you know how to solve it, write all the steps that are going to be required. Let the teacher know that you know how to solve the problem. This can be helpful in the case when you need to solve for a variable in order to solve for the final answer. If you are not able to solve for a variable, do not stop there, if you know the rest of the steps, write them down. Do not worry about the unsolved variable. What is important is that you have demonstrated a complete understanding of the whole problem even if you got stuck on one part.
Sometimes is very useful just to write the easy steps for every problem and leave the difficult or time-consuming stuff at the end. In that way, you can maximize your points and save time. Some problems are lengthy and require a lot of calculations on a calculator. Usually, the final step is to solve for a quantity mathematically. If this happens, stop where the work turns into pure algebra and work on the next problem. If you have time left at the end of the exam, go back and then solve for the final answers that you left at the algebra steps.
Always arrive on time. Remember that you do not have too much time. Also, you should understand that if a test is scheduled to last fifty minutes it is because you actually are going to need fifty minutes to solve it.
Always start solving the material that you know very well. That is why you should always read through the whole test first. The problems are not arranged in order of difficulty; the first problems are not necessarily the easy ones. Always leave the most complicated questions until the end of the test time.
Always make sure that you copied the right numbers into your calculator from your exam, or back from the calculator to the exam when you are done with the calculation. You hate to lose points for doing something silly like copying the wrong numbers down.