Essential Standardized Test Strategies to Improve Your Score

Essential Standardized Test Strategies to Improve Your Score

Many strategies for improving test scores are unique to each person based on their strengths, weaknesses, and goal score—and, of course, there are additional strategies specific to the test you are taking.

That said, here are a few proven strategies that apply to everyone:

Take practice tests
We’ve said this before (here), and we’ll say it again: Taking full-length practice tests is an essential test prep strategy, regardless of the test you are taking. A surefire strategy for improving your score is taking practice tests and, very importantly, digging into the practice test afterwards to study your mistakes. Practice testing allows you to focus on and IMPROVE your weak points; it also helps you utilize your study time more efficiently.

Get familiar with question types
Each standardized test has a handful of question types within each section. Familiarize yourself with each question type so that you are not wasting time on test day figuring out what the question is asking you to do.

Answer every question
You are not penalized for wrong answers, so it’s smarter to answer every question rather than leaving questions blank. The test score is based on your number of correct answers; thus, your incorrect answers and blank answers count against you in the same way. Better to have an answer down, even if it’s a guess, rather than not answering at all because you’ll have a shot at guessing correctly.

Process of elimination
When answering tough questions where the correct answer doesn’t jump out at you, it is most effective to look for reasons to get rid of answer choices rather than figuring out reasons for why an answer choice might work. The correct answer will have no reason for elimination.

Best guess and mark hard questions to revisit later
Time management is key on standardized tests. You simply can’t spend too much time on one question or else you’ll run out of time to attempt to answer every question on the test. When you come across a hard question, come back to it at the end. Before you move ahead though, bubble in your best guess on the scantron form. Then, put a star on the test booklet to indicate that you need to come back.  By bubbling in your best guess, you at least have something down in case you run out of time to come back.

Double check answers
If you have extra time at the end and have circled back on all the hard questions that you starred, go back through your answers from beginning to end. As tempting as it is to relax for a few minutes, it’s smarter to spend time reviewing your test to ensure you feel confident about your answers rather than catching a quick break.