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The Mechanics of Taking Tests

Once you understand the reasons why you may not be a "good test taker" (the system and your attitude), your next step in improving the situation is to sharpen your test-taking skills. You now need to focus on the mechanics of test taking.

Test-Taking Success = Attitude + Content + Test-Taking Skills

We have already discussed the importance of attitude, as well as various study skills for retaining content. This chapter and the following two chapters will focus on test-taking techniques and skills for various types of tests.

There are those who have very superficial knowledge of the subject matter but generally do reasonably well on tests. Then, there are many people who master all the content and still can't pass the test.

Generally, poor test takers make too many careless or mechanical mistakes. Good test takers limit their "dumb mistakes."

A careless or mechanical mistake is selecting choice C as your answer to a test question, when you actually meant to pick choice B. Or you answered a question incorrectly because you failed to see a small word, such as "not." Possibly a question may have read, "Which of the following is not true regarding the Declaration of Independence?" You answered this incorrectly because you misread the question.

There are two broad categories of test questions -- essay and objective questions. Most tests are objective, but occasionally you may be faced with an essay test. An objective question is usually very specific. In contrast, an essay question generally covers a wider area.

Many people feel much more comfortable with objective tests, which include multiple choice, matching questions and true and false questions. Yet there are those who feel more at home with essay questions. Essay questions allow you to "talk" more freely by answering a question by means of several paragraphs. This chapter will address the essay question (also known as a "recall-type" question, since the answer must be recalled from the memory of the test taker).