How to Beat a Standardized Test

Standardized Testing

College students (and high school students for that matter), frequently have to take standardized tests that fill them with fear. Whether it’s the SAT, GRE, LCAT, MCAT, LSAT, TOEFL or a myriad of other acronym-infused college and private school entrance exams, the one thing that these standardized tests all have in common is that they attempt to classify students by a single standard. The standards that each test uses are different, but every test has them. By knowing about these standards, you can master the test.

When we say “master”, we don’t mean by cheating. In fact, the best ways to improve your test scores are above board and perfectly acceptable. These include: getting to know the test, practicing for it and getting help studying for it.

First, you want to get to know the test that you are going to be taking. Things such as how long the test takes, how many questions it will have, what kind of questions (multiple choice, essay, etc) and what kind of subjects will be covered. You can do research for the test on the Internet, such as here in the student forums, and find plenty of help materials. There is a lot more help in this area than there used to be.

Second, you might want to find a tutor, or at least take a study course for the test you plan to take. Don’t be scared to use a tutor, since they will help keep you to your study deadlines and cause you to study harder than you probably would on your own. They also help with the parts of the test that are not necessarily standardized. Inexpensive study guides will provide you with the answers to multiple choice practice questions, but they are not as helpful with how to write an essay. They of course, can’t correct the essay or give feedback on how you could improve your essay writing skills. Using a tutor or taking a study course can help you tremendously in this area by giving one-to-one feedback.

Third, study guides are great because they include practice materials such as tests and exercises. These will help you become more familiar with the actual test and what you could expect. They will also help you get better at it taking the test, by improving your familiarity with it, along with your actual test-taking skills. Companies such as The Princeton Review, Barron’s, Kaplan, The College Board and others often publish study guides for the major standardized tests such as the SAT, GRE, LCAT, MCAT, LSAT, TOEFL and others.

Forewarning – last minute cramming is not a good idea on these kinds of tests. If you cram the night before, you’re more likely to hurt yourself than help yourself on test day. It’s better to take a break the night prior to the test and get a good rest. Sleep is the best test aid, yet too many students seem to neglect it.

Finally, remember that most of these tests can be taken more than once. Several of them are offered a few times per year. So, if you don’t do well the first time, don’t panic. You should be able to get another crack at it, with some experience under your belt. With a little extra study and practice, you will always improve.

Good luck!

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