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4 Tips to Ace Your Next Standardized Test


A hand holding a white pencil fills out answers on a standardized test sheet

Few things make students more anxious than a big standardized test. The SAT, ACT, or mandated state exams, can be intimidating. You may feel pressure from both parents and teachers who want you to do well. Fortunately, there are ways you can feel more prepared. With the right strategy, you can ace your next standardized test. 


Read Directions and Test Questions Carefully

Time is precious on standardized exams. While you want to go as fast as possible, you have to take the time to read through the test slowly and carefully. Harvard recommends looking over the entire test before starting. “Doing so will help you understand the structure of the test and identify areas that may need more or less time.”


While reading the entire test first will help you plan out what questions to start with, if you can’t stomach spending time on this, at least make sure you’re reading through each question carefully before you jump to working out an answer. 


Answer the Questions You Know First

Getting the easier questions out of the way first helps in more ways than one. You’re most likely to be nervous when you first start the test. Answering the easy questions builds your confidence and gets the nervousness out of your system. Plus, if you spend too much time on a tough question and run out of time, you’ll miss out on points that you could have earned from those easy questions you didn’t have time for. 


After you’ve gotten in the swing of things with the easy questions, go back through the test and answer the hard questions you skipped. You might be surprised to find that now that you’re warmed up and not so nervous, these tougher questions don’t seem so bad. 


Eliminate Obviously Wrong Choices

Have you ever encountered a multiple choice question where one of the answers is clearly wrong? Cross out that answer before you do anything else. By eliminating the obviously wrong choices, you increase your chances of choosing the right answer. 


If another option is “All of the Above,” but one of the answers is obviously wrong, you can cross out not one, but two possible answers. While this strategy only works for multiple choice questions, these make up a large portion of most standardized tests.


Highlight Key Points in Passages

The SAT reading section includes five passages that vary between 500 and 750 words. You have 65 minutes to complete the entire section. Getting a good grade requires you to read and process the information as quickly and accurately as possible. 


Help yourself by highlighting key points as you read. This will come in handy when you answer questions about the passage and need to find important information as quickly as possible. Instead of rereading the entire section, you’ll be able to jump back to the highlighted point. 


Check Your Work Before Passing in Your Standardized Test

Do your best to save time to go back and check your work at the end of the test. When checking your work, start with the hardest questions first, then move on to checking easier questions. Dedicate your review time to the questions you were most likely to get wrong. 


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