Improve Your Test Scores: How To Ace the Test

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Updated: March 25, 2024, Reading time: 6 minutes

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Do you want to get better test scores? Are you scratching your head on how to improve your class standing? Are you nervous and unsure if you will get a good grade on your important exams?

These are normal thoughts and feelings for any college student, and we would like to help you get those grades that you are working hard for.

Examinations are a big part of college life, and it is normal for anyone to want to get good grades. Those grades will definitely help you get a good job and forge great connections. One can always study all the time, but there are numerous techniques that not a lot of people know.

We will talk about techniques before taking the exam, then tips during the exam, and finally, pointers that you can do after an exam to prepare yourself for the next test.

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College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Before the Exam

Make good study notes.

We have talked about making good study notes on this website before, and we really need to emphasize this to all college students.

Making your study notes not only gives you more personalized study material but also improves your recollection and understanding of the lecture materials. To put it simply, the golden rule of making good study notes is to write notes, not transcripts.

There are a lot of different techniques and formats that can help organize your notes. There is the Cornell Notes structure to help make your notes more organized in a single glance.

You can also improve your skills in taking notes by mapping the ideas, giving you the ability to compare and contrast. There are also the classic sentence-structured notes, where you write the concepts and facts in a shorter and paraphrased manner.

In a nutshell, apply the most appropriate method of taking study notes, listen attentively to the lecturer, and read the study notes within 24 hours.

Be strategic in preparation for the exams.

One reason why it is good to enter groups and clubs is the ability to talk to upperclassmen or people who have sat down and listened to a faculty member’s lecture.

You can ask about the structure, preferred exam types, and tips. They can also share any notes that they have before or at least point you in a good direction on how to tackle studying.

Another way to be more strategic is to concentrate on the items that will most likely come out on your test. If you can secure a syllabus, look at the table of contents and study the outline. After you have become familiar with the study items, you can use the syllabus as a quick directory of important materials.

Another way to be more strategic with your studying is by applying the Pareto Principle. This principle, also known to the public as the 80/20 principle or the law of the vital few, means that only approximately 20% of the said population is important.

For example, 20% of the population holds 80% of the wealth in society, or 20% of the clients in a firm or business gives approximately 80% of all revenues.

In taking an exam, 20% of the core ideas and main points in the lecture will lead to around 80% of the correct answers in the exam unless it is a test that requires your memory.

This means that for tests that lean more towards analysis and problem-solving, focusing your studying on the main concepts, formulas, and laws will certainly help you get a good grade.

During the Exam

Do the Triage technique.

The term triage has its roots in the military structure, where military personnel involved in medical duties will take care of those soldiers they think deserve immediate attention.

It is best to skim through all the questions first, mark those questions that are easy and those that are hard to answer, and then finish the easier questions first before you proceed to the more difficult ones. The idea is to finish as many easy questions as fast as possible so that you can focus on the harder ones.

This will work best for examinations that are in multiple-choice forms, enumerations, fill-in-the-blank tests, and basically, any other test that requires factual expertise.

The triage method can also be applied to essay questions, but it consumes more time since you will have to read all the questions, and essay questions are longer than most questions from other examination types.

Be an expert on time management.

To make your test-taking skills even more efficient, you can start by dividing how many questions are present by the time allotted to the test. You should be able to get how much time you should spend on each question. The easy questions should take only 50% to 60% of the average time spent.

Usually, a college test will have around 70% of questions that are easy, so it is best if you concentrate on them first so that you will have more time to focus on the questions that are more difficult. Your opponent whenever you take an exam in college is not just the difficulty of questions but also the management of your time.

Another technique is to save the last 10 minutes by answering blank questions and skimming the test. If you are confident, you can double-check the questions.

Another important thing to note is skipping questions; if some questions take up too much of your time, skip them and return once you have checked your whole exam since, most of the time, there are clues to other questions.

After the Exam

Study and analyze the exam.

Before you pass the paper, give the exam one final read-through, focusing on the questions, especially those that you think are difficult. Once you have submitted your paper, you can ask the teacher or the teaching assistant for the answers.

It is best to know the answers while the questions are still fresh in your mind. If asking the teachers or the examiners is not possible, you can ask your friends about their opinions or read your books or notes again.

You can jot down the important questions, as well as the answers, on a different sheet, which you can also use as a study note supplement. Please review the questions and answers within 24 hours since your brain will be more conducive to retaining materials, and then make another review within 2 to 3 days after.

With these techniques, you can get much better grades having more time since you will be working smarter, not harder.


To ace a test, it is important to start studying and preparing early, create a study schedule, review materials thoroughly, and get plenty of rest before the test. It is also helpful to stay calm, manage time effectively, and approach each question carefully during the test.

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