7 Test-Taking Tips for Adult Students

Adult college students are uniquely placed to succeed. The maturity, focus and experience that typically comes with age are qualities that younger students tend to lack. But one disadvantage that adult students may have is rustiness when it comes to school activities, like test taking.

By Sarah Wright

Help for Adult Students

As an older student, you might feel a little out of place in the classroom. But have no doubt, your professors are probably glad to have you there. It's likely that you make useful contributions to class, and you take your work seriously. But if it's been a while since you've been in school, you might feel a little uneasy about certain things, like taking tests.

Testing is something that rarely happens outside of school, and it takes some skill to re-learn how to deal with the stress involved with the test taking process. Here are some tips that will help get you back into fighting shape.

1. Be Prepared

If you know what you're getting into well before the test, you can put those practical concerns aside and focus on studying. Find out where the exam itself will take place, and how to get there if it's in an unfamiliar location. Make sure you have the necessary equipment, whether it's a specific type of pencil, a calculator or a book the professor will allow you to reference. Be aware of how long you have to take the test, and where you will need to turn it in. Getting all of these logistics figured out will also help reduce the chance that you'll miss the test or make some other simple, but impactful, mistake.

2. Don't Cram

This is the golden rule for test-taking, and yet it just doesn't seem to reach some students. As an adult student, you should be more aware of the consequences of wasting your time in school. If you've been doing the assigned work throughout the course of the class, you will have a good foundation of knowledge with which to approach an exam. Reviewing familiar material is a good way to prepare, but trying to learn something for the first time right before a test is just going to stress you out and make it harder for you to focus on what you do know.

3. Test for the Test

Simply reading over notes isn't necessarily the best way to prepare for a test. Instead, quiz yourself on the material that will be covered. Flashcards and mock tests are a great way to do this. For an added challenge, you can come up with study questions while you're encountering the material for the first time. This will force you to do some mental searching while you study. Studying in this way helps to replicate the act that you're preparing for in the first place, so it's a good idea to incorporate it into your study regimen.

4. Ask Questions Before, During and After

Your professor or instructor is an ally when it comes to exams. They know what's going to be covered, and what you need to do to succeed. Before the exam, ask about the scope of material included, what format the questions will take and how many questions there are. During the test, if you're not sure whether your interpretation of a specific question is correct, ask. And when you get your test back, don't hesitate to bring up any questions or concerns. Knowing why you got something wrong will not only help you learn, but it can help you improve your testing skills.

5. Find a Study Buddy

It's a good idea to find someone with whom you can review material, discuss potential questions and clarify concepts. If you don't have a rapport with any students in your class, ask your professor or instructor for suggestions. They might be able to point you to a friendly and responsible student who'd be happy to study with you. And if you just don't want to spend that kind of time with a younger student, try to recruit a friend or family member to quiz you. They might not know exactly what's been covered in class, but they can at least help you test yourself.

6. Be Physically Ready

This may seem obvious, but it's something that younger students often struggle with. If you know you have a test, plan for it. Make sure that you'll have time to review your notes and get an adequate amount of sleep the night before. Have a good breakfast, and make sure you don't drink too much coffee or otherwise ingest something that will cause discomfort. Taking care of your physical needs will ensure that you can focus on the matter at hand when you've got the exam in front of you.

7. Don't Get too Cocky

If you've done all you need to prepare, feeling confident is a perfectly fine mindset before a test. But a little bit of academic anxiety can actually be helpful. Instead of trying to shun anxiety, see it as a tool that can help you stay aware of what you're doing and on the lookout for potential mistakes. But like confidence, you don't want to let yourself go too far down the anxiety rabbit hole. Feeling too confident can lead to complacency, while too much anxiety can be a distraction.

Before taking a test, you might want to reference your syllabus to see what kind of impact it will have on your grade.

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