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Debunking the Myth of the “Terrible Test-Taker”


As an admissions coach, I often hear students lament, "I am a terrible test-taker." Many of these students understand the concepts but struggle to score well on standardized tests. The good news is that being a "terrible test-taker" is not a fixed trait; it can be addressed with the right strategies and mindset. Here are some tips to help you improve your test-taking skills.



Poor Time Management

One common issue is poor time management. Many students spend too long on certain questions and rush through others, leading to incomplete or poorly answered sections. Effective time management requires discipline and practice. Start by taking timed practice tests to get a feel for the pace you need to maintain. Learn to quickly identify questions you can answer confidently and those you should skip temporarily, returning to them if time permits. This approach ensures you maximize your score potential by answering the questions you know first.



Lack of Test-taking Strategies

Another key factor is the lack of test-taking strategies. Effective strategies can significantly enhance your performance. For instance, on multiple-choice questions, use the process of elimination to narrow down the options. For essay questions, spend a few minutes outlining your answer before you start writing. Familiarize yourself with the test format and types of questions you will encounter. Practice these strategies regularly so they become second nature during the actual test.



Not Understanding the Questions 

A significant hurdle for many students is not understanding what the questions are asking. This issue often stems from misinterpreting the wording or intent of the question. To overcome this, practice reading questions carefully and identifying keywords that indicate what is required. Break down complex questions into smaller, more manageable parts. If a question seems confusing, rephrase it in your own words to ensure you understand it correctly before answering.



Memorization is not enough!

One critical mistake is relying solely on memorization without understanding and knowing how to apply the material. This is particularly important in math and science-based subjects, where simply recalling formulas or facts is not enough. You need to understand the underlying principles and how to apply them to solve problems. Instead of rote memorization, focus on grasping the concepts and practicing their application through various problem sets. Engage in active learning techniques such as explaining concepts to a peer, applying them in different scenarios, and tackling a variety of problem types to deepen your understanding and flexibility in applying knowledge.



We hope that by addressing these common issues—time management, test-taking strategies, question comprehension, and application of knowledge—you can transform your test-taking abilities!


Remember, being a "terrible test-taker" is not a permanent condition. With practice, discipline, and the right techniques, you can improve your performance and gain confidence in your test-taking skills. Don’t give up; instead, equip yourself with the tools to succeed.

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