HOW TO MASTER TEST TAKING

FRED  A.  ANDERSON

SKILLS IMPROVEMENT
P.O. BOX 595
AURORA, CO 80040

PREFACE

Let me introduce myself: I'm Fred A. Ander­son, your author. One of my primary purposes in writing this book is to share with you, all the test-taking skills I've acquired over the past ten years. I originally became interested in test taking because of a desire to achieve a higher promotion test score. After discovering one test­taking skills book in the library, I searched for more. Eventually I obtained a number of books and articles on the subject. I applied the techniques I'd learned and did improve my score.

Later, I applied these skills to col­lege-level exams (CLEP) and received my first degree with the minimum number of required resi­dent courses (five). Once I started, I couldn't stop. I've taken over seventy-five college exami­nations with a pass-rate of over 80% (without knowing almost ANYTHING about the subjects I tested in). The results of my efforts are a B.S. degree from the University of the State of New York, an A.A. degree from the University of Maryland, and two A.A.S. degrees from the Communi­ty College of the Air Force (CCAF). I'm within one course of a third A.A.S. degree from City Colleges of Chicago and plan to finish my M.A. degree within the next two years. I know that test-taking skills work, because I satisfied all requirements for my B.S. degree with only five classroom courses!

For approximately three years I taught test­taking skills at the U. S. Air Forces in Europe NCO Academy. Presently I'm teaching test-taking skills at the Metropolitan Technical Community College in Omaha, Nebraska. As you can see, I've benefited tremendously from test-taking skills, and you can too.

I wish to express my sincere thanks to the individuals who helped with this edition. My wife, Hannelore, contributed substantially to its clari­ty and continuity. The book cover, logo design and graphics were artistically created by my brother, Fresno. I'm particularly grateful for the editing assistance given by the Metropolitan Technical Community College staff: Ruth Iliff, coordinator, and the IDEA Program instructors, Janet Blimling, Jeanne Cork, Cathy Harlow, D'Arla Skinner and Vicki Weil. I'm also grateful to Prentice-Hall and Field Enterprises for granting copyright per­missions.

INTRODUCTION
You're reading this book because you have a sincere desire to improve your test scores. With that in mind, I've packed it with hundreds of tips, hints and techniques to help you raise exam scores to the highest possible level. But first, let's discuss our test oriented society.
We were introduced to our first test with the breath-of-life test given at birth, and our final examination will be the test of vital signs at death. Between these extremes, we take thousands of tests that will control our lives and shape our careers. Collectively, exams do make or break us. They determine our successes and failures.
At  Columbia University, research was conduct­ed to determine what constitutes success. They discovered that success was made up of three main ingredients. To be considered successful by your standards, and by others, three elements are essential: skill, knowledge and attitude. Not being satisfied with just identifying these fac­tors, they sought to determine the relative impor­tance of- each. The results of their research was that attitude make up 93% of success! Skill and knowledge were responsible for only 7%. An amazing fact.
we've always been led to believe that skill and knowledge were significant in achieving any degree of success. Columbia's research proved that .nag- Verify this research personally: recall some past, unpleasant task or project you were involved in. You had sufficient knowledge and skill to accomplish it, but you had a negative attitude concerning it. The job was eventually completed, but you had difficulty finishing it. Contrast that with this situation: recall another past task you performed with little or no skill or knowledge, but a positive attitude. Your positive attitude more than made up for your lack of skill and knowledge. Not only did you complete it with fewer problems, you also experienced a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.

Don't underestimate the value of attitude. With the proper attitude you can do almost any­thing. Apply that positive, confident attitude to test taking. Read this book with the positive attitude that you CAN improve your test-taking abilities. Have confidence in yourself and in this book to help you achieve this goal. Remember, attitude is everything! (93%)

Another misconception many people have is that a person cannot be taught to improve their test-taking skills. Stop and think about this. Courses are available to teach us counseling skills, to train us to read better, and achieve proficiency in thousands of other subjects. Why are testing skills so different? They aren't. Test taking is an art that can be taught. An effective program of instruction and practice will improve your testing skills, if you apply them. We all know that nothing will take the place of knowledge of the subject. But that's not enough. Understand­ing the subject will never guarantee success. No matter how long you study for a test, there will be questions that you can't answer. That's where this book comes in. It contains those principles, techniques and strategies that will enable you to conquer those questions you either don't know, or are not sure of. Read this book, study it, apply the skills, and you'll be a master test taker.

All of us have two educations; one which we receive from others; another and the most valuable, which we give ourselves.
---John Randolph

I believe your future test scores should reflect your complete knowledge of the subject. I define complete knowledge as absolute knowledge, plus partial knowledge. Your absolute knowledge is the information you positively know, without a doubt. Partial knowledge is those things you know something about, but it's incomplete. Example: you know some things concerning the operating and constructing of a car. But you don't know enough to explain its principle of operation in detail or to repair it. In my opinion, your partial knowledge is thousands of times more than your absolute knowledge. You simply aren't aware of how much partial knowledge you've acquired over the years. You've accumulated this tremendous amount of knowledge through everyday living: TV, radio, newspapers, books, interests and hobbies. I chal­lenge you to put it to use where it counts--during a test.

Over the years I've read many books and articles on test taking. Although most of them were helpful, all had the same fault--they were incomplete. They didn't take the reader through the entire test-taking process. Also, many filled their pages with unneeded information for the average test taker. I felt there was a need for a practical test-taking guide, with only that infor­mation needed to prepare for, take and review tests. I've attempted to get to the point, stay on the subject, and make every written word count. Your time is valuable and I respect that. I've kept it short: in words, but not in information.

Along with its briefness, I've also tried to keep it simple. The strategies in chapter 6 go from simple to complex. Because of that, some of the later ones you may have to read more than once to fully comprehend the principle and logic behind them. But considering their complexity, I've kept the explanation as direct and uncomplicated as possible.

The example questions used were selected because of their uncommonness. The less you can relate to the content of the question, the better. This approach will motivate you to use the strate­gies, rather than use your subject knowledge or experience to determine the answers. Now it's time for you to start--Good Luck!

 

 

CONTENTS

1.             PREPARING FOR THE TEST

2.         ESSENTIAL TEST-TAKING PRINCIPLES

3.         DAY OF THE TEST

4.         WITH TEST IN HAND

5.         KEY WORDS AND PHRASES

6.         EXAMINATION STRATEGIES

7.         AFTER THE EASY QUESTIONS

8.         AFTER THE TEST

 


1
PREPARING FOR THE TEST

WEEKS BEFORE

The best approach for you, the test taker, is to start preparing weeks before the testing date. There is no substitute for knowledge of the subject matter. Regular and consistent study of the exam subject is a must. With all the skills and techniques mentioned here, if you fail to study and review during the final weeks prior to an examination, you're destined to achieve a lower score than if you prepared properly.

Set up a study schedule and stick to it. It should be at approximately the same time each day and preferably at the same location. Select a quiet place as far away from distractions as possible. Studying with the TV, radio or stereo within hearing distance, isn't the best learning environment. Also, try to locate your study area away from playing children, barking dogs and traffic, or any other similar distractions, that prevent you from complete concentration.

Along with your intellectual preparation, don't forget your body. It also needs exercise: of a different nature, but just as important as your mind. It's hard to have an alert mind with a sluggish body. Being physically unfit prevents you from studying effectively, and will, on test day, affect your test performance. Engage in some form of physical exercise daily. Don't overdo it to the point you're exhausted, but to a sufficient degree to keep your body tuned up, both physically and mentally. A well planned and executed program is the best confidence builder you can have.

POSTPONE IF
Some adverse event or situation may occur during the weeks before your testing date that prompts you to attempt to postpone or reschedule your testing date or time. To avoid any misinter­pretation, I'm only suggesting you request a delay if you feel you have a legitimate reason for doing so. The individuals controlling the test schedule will ultimately decide whether your reason is legitimate.

Besides being ill or sick, there are other reasons many people consider valid. I'm an evening person: meaning, I function better mentally in the afternoon and evening. If I have a choice of taking an exam in the morning or afternoon, I'll schedule it in the afternoon. Followers of bio­rhythms feel that when their intellectual curve is at rock bottom, it's a justifiable reason to seek another testing date. If you're into horoscopes and your astrological sign indicates something less than optimum on test day, you might consider asking for a more advantageous day. For women, an additional factor can affect your exam score. Several studies concluded that just before or during the menstrual cycle, test performance suf­fers. So, if you have in the past experienced this, I strongly recommend getting your test day changed, if possible. Realistically, however, in many testing situations, a postponement or change in date or time isn't likely. But you'll never know until you try.

DAYS BEFORE
Now that the time is almost here, a complete review of the test-taking skills you've learned and perfected is in order. If you haven't started already, get a highlighter or a pen to underline important words, phrases and sentences as you read this book. It can save a tremendous amount of time during subsequent readings. I'm never without a highlighter when I'm reading. Once I've underlined or highlighted important points, I can review the book at a later date in less than one-tenth the time it took me to read it originally. It's possible to do this by reading only the highlight­ed areas and skimming the rest. After you've adequately reexamined the test-taking skills, con­tinue studying and reviewing the subject you'll soon be tested on. Physical activity should be continued also, to maintain your total body at its peak efficiency.

TOOLS OF YOUR TRADE
Most test takers overlook some of the mechan­ics of being prepared on test day. You probably wouldn't consider attending classes without at least a pencil, paper and textbook. But without thinking, all of us have arrived to test not having the essential tools. Things I consider important enough to collect the night before are: pencils, pens, watch, cassette recorder, tapes, and study reference material. Insure the batteries in your recorder are fresh or fully charged up (if you use the rechargeable type). A slide rule, protractor, calculator may be on your list of needed items, if so, assemble them in one place and check them over the night before. Your need for the majority of these items should be clear, and I'll explain the purpose and use of the less-obvious items in chapter 8. Don't leave home without them, although only a few of your testing tools will be with you in the examination room.

THE DAY BEFORE
How you spend this day will affect your exam score more than most persons realize. The key is
to control and regulate your emotional state and physical activity. Make the day before your test a calm and relaxing one. Even if you have to take a day off from work, or take a day of vacation or leave, it's well worth it. If you work under pressure or in a demanding job, a day away from the office is the only way to insure a calm day before testing. I routinely take the day off before an important exam. Avoid all conflicts and disturbances: simply put them off or delay them until after the exam. Follow your normal routine, with one exception, don't study or cram. If you've been studying up to now, you know as much as you'll learn before tomorrow. Cramming the last minute won't do any good the day before your test. Involve yourself in some activity. In other words, do something to take your mind off the test. I always have something to do around the house, or a neglected hobby or interest to catch up on. Just keep your mental and physical activity "light." You don't need a backache or dull mind tomorrow.

This is also the day to gather up your tools. A beneficial way to spend this evening before the test is to relax--your way, watching TV, going to a movie or whatever turns you on. Once again, keep it light, nothing heavy. End the day early: go to bed a little earlier than normal, without drugs. A good night's rest will keep you awake while reading question number 38 tomorrow.

The coming chapter departs from the sequence of events leading up to your testing day. I feel it's important for you to be fully aware of funda­mental test-taking principles at this stage of your test preparation.


2
ESSENTIALS - TEST PHRASEOLOGY

Knowing the terms used in testing will aid you in grasping and understanding the testing business. More specifically, being familiar with these phrases will enable you to comprehend much more of what follows in this book. Even though most of this may be familiar to you, let's start with the basics.

The smallest composite unit of a test is the question, or as some know it, the test item. It is composed of two parts, the stem and the alterna­tives. The stem is the statement, or question, that poses a problem for you to answer. It could be a complete sentence, an incomplete statement or a question. The alternatives of a question are those three, four or five words, phrases or statements, that you select from to answer the question correctly. Alternatives are also called options, choices and responses. They are usually labeled A, B, C, D: or 1, 2, 3, 4. The alterna­tives are further broken down into distractors and the correct choice or keyed response. That's where this book will help you: selecting the right alternative from the distractors, to correctly answer the question statement in the stem.

Collectively, the questions make up the test. Tests are categorized in numerous ways. There are objective tests (multiple-choice, matching and true-false) as contrasted with subjective tests (fill-in, completion and essay). Another way to compare tests is by the degree of emphasis placed on testing time. That's basically the difference between speed and power tests. A speed test is designed, so that most test takers won't finish in the time limit. But, most of the exams you'll be taking, will be of the power test class. This type provides sufficient time to permit completion by the vast majority of testers.

Then, there is yet another break-out: the teacher-made test (nonstandardized) and the stand­ardized test. We've all taken teacher-made tests in school, so no further explanation is needed. The standardized test is what we now take for job placement, advancement, promotion, etc. Almost all standardized tests are prepared by subject-matter experts and test psychologists. For that reason, you won't find as many clues in them. Neverthe­less, there are enough clues, some unavoidable, to make it worth developing your test taking skills.

METHODS OF ANSWER SELECTION
The individual questions cannot all be ap­proached in the same manner, if you expect to get the majority correct. The various methods are:

1. RECALL OF KNOWLEDGE is the best manner to arrive at the answer. After reading the ques­tion, you know the answer and locate it among the alternatives. Some questions can be answered with­out much thought. However, no matter how much we study and prepare for a test, there will be questions we just aren't sure of.

The remaining methods identify six other approach­es employed to answer test items.

2. COMPUTATION is used when mathematics is required to determine the keyed response. You'll need this skill on math, electronics and other technical questions.


3. LIMITED ASSOCIATION is helpful when con­fronted with matching-type questions and some multiple-choice items. By associating the elements of these types of questions, the answer can be determined.

4. PROCESS OF ELIMINATION or deduction is one of my primary approaches on test items. By eliminating some of the distractors, I'm left with, at best, the answer; and if that isn't possible, at least I've narrowed the choices down to two or three. This is the key skill in getting you through those difficult questions.

5. TEST CONSTRUCTION CLUES, addressed later under "TECHNIQUES AND STRATEGIES," are those sub­tle clues that all tests contain. A knowledge of what to look for is invaluable to the test taker.

6. THE EDUCATED OR REASONED GUESS is what has been called a calculated guess or strong hunch. This valid test-taking technique enables you to receive credit for your partial knowledge, along with your absolute knowledge. The combina­tion of these two make up your complete knowledge. An unskilled test taker usually fails to receive a true test score, simply because she or he doesn't guess.

7. AN UNQUALIFIED GUESS is unquestionably the last resort. Because of that, most individuals shun this approach; but I say use it when all else fails. There is only one type of question experts say you shouldn't guess at. The situation is mentioned later in this chapter. When you're con­fronted with the choice of guessing or leaving the question unanswered, go ahead and guess.

GENERAL GUIDELINES
Many small and seemingly minor considerations add up to a successful testing session. Some very general techniques follow. Collectively, they give you a sizable edge on the unskilled tester. That advantage will be reflected in your score. Exam panic or test anxiety can really hurt you on test day. Up to a point, some tenseness is beneficial and will help you achieve a high degree of alertness, but excessive worry puts you in a state of panic. Panic in true emergency situations enables you to perform physical feats beyond your normal capacity; but mental ability is what you need in this situation, and extreme anxiety only drains your mind to the point of confusion. Controlling it to an acceptable degree will permit you to approach each question with a clear, functioning mind.

As for teacher-made tests, it's wise to remember that most teachers aren't trained to construct tests. But don't look for trick ques­tions on any exam. Most test makers won't resort to this sneaky approach. Also, don't read anything into the question. The words in the stem have been carefully chosen to precisely state the question. Remember, the answer you select must be entirely true for it to be correct. Your answer should be based on the study reference material, not your own experiences. The only exceptions are if the study material didn't cover that area, or you're asked general knowledge or judgment type ques­tions.

Use common sense when thinking through each question, don't engage in tunnel vision. I've heard individuals comment after a test, "I knew which answer they wanted, but I didn't agree, so I marked the way I thought was best." Then these individuals wonder why they don't score high or get promoted. Try to put yourself in the test maker's shoes, then answer accordingly.

If you encounter an outdated question, don't panic. The question may have been valid when the test was prepared, but due to a fast changing world, it's no longer correct. Use the test copyright or publication date to guide you in selecting the answer. The only time that this strategy may not apply is when the choices contain both the old correct response and the new correct response. Then just take a pick.

Selecting the response is one thing, but recording it on your answer sheet is another. Each response should be clear, heavy and distinct. Insure each mark is within the space provided and doesn't overrun it. Record answers in the correct space. To minimize any mismarks, check your re­sponses every ten or fifteen questions. An out of sequence mark will make most of your subsequent responses incorrect. Don't doodle on either the answer sheet or test booklet. When erasing, make sure you completely remove every trace of lead. The above careless mistakes will cost you dearly.

Let me make one final note on marking your answer sheet. To effectively use every second, record your responses on the answer sheet after each question. Saving the recording chore until you've answered all questions can be disastrous, and it consumes valuable time.

MOST CORRECT ANSWER
A smart test taker selects the first correct answer spotted, however, the wise one chooses the most correct answer. As mentioned before, each question contains among its alternatives, the keyed response and a number of distractors. The distractors are selected to be plausible and acceptable to the misinformed test taker. Some distractors are either partially correct or common misconceptions, designed to appear attractive to the unskilled tester. A wise test taker, however, will view these distractors as erroneous, unsound, unreasonable, or too broad or too narrow to be the correct response. Each distractor you can elimi­nate increases your chances of getting that ques­tion right.

The correct answer will almost always contain some of the following characteristics. It will be the most encompassing and inclusive alternative of the group. It's usually the most general and qualified choice available. Because the keyed response contains the above traits, it's usually the longest response. Incorrect choices can be stated concisely and in fewer words. It usually takes more words to state something correctly. Your goal then is to select the BEST response of the available alternatives.

Limit your thinking to the stated options. Don't try to interpret an alternative to mean some other possibility not given as an alternative. Select only from those given and nothing else. The above skills are to be used only if you can't determine the answer in any other way. If you know which alternative is correct, answer it and con­tinue without further thought.

EASY QUESTIONS FIRST
Most test takers waste time by spending too much time on hard or difficult questions. You're working against yourself if you do this. During. your next exam, try this technique. Carefully read the stem of the question and pick out the key words and phrases. Attempt to answer the question without looking at the alternatives. Then look at the choices to see if your anticipated answer is among them. If you find it, mark your answer sheet and go on to the next one. If not, read the complete question again; this time eliminating as many distracters as you can, and record the remaining possible answers on your scratch paper. Don't spend any more time on this question. At this point, you've finished with the question, so go on to the next item. Erase any thoughts of the previous question from your mind. Your subcon­scious will take over and usually the next time you read it, you'll have enough added insight to select the answer. Concentrate on only one ques­tion at a time. Follow these steps throughout the test.

 

If, after reading a question twice, you can't determine the answer, eliminate as many distrac­tors as possible. Record the possible choices on your scratch paper, and start on the next ques­tion. By following this sequence you can more than double your "apparent" time. I define apparent time as your subjective judgment of the passage of time, when you're not looking at a clock or watch. If you're one of those individuals who never has sufficient time to finish a test, this approach will give more than enough time to finish. Try it and see.

TIME CONSIDERATIONS
As I mentioned earlier, your most pressing concern during a test is time. Some individuals don't finish within the time limit, simply because of inefficient testing habits. I too suffered from those self-defeating habits, until I started using these more efficient approaches. Maintaining abso­lute control of my time during a test has been the greatest single factor in my testing success. I know it can work for you too.

The first concern is to determine how many minutes or seconds you have to answer each ques­tion. You should compute this as soon as you're aware of the time limit and the number of ques­tions. You may sometimes have this information before the testing date, and at other times, not until you're handed the test. In either case, compute it as soon as you have it. Let's say you're taking a one-hundred question test and have one and one-half hours (ninety minutes) to com­plete it. By simple division, you determine you have less than one minute per question (9/10 of a minute). With this useful information, you must now pace yourself accordingly. Answer the easy questions first, as you won't need all the allot­ted time per question to answer them. Use the technique outlined in the previous section. Remem­ber, after attempting to answer the difficult questions, eliminate identifiable distracters and record the remaining possible answers on scratch paper. Once you've finished the less difficult items, you'll have a considerable amount of extra time to devote to those more difficult ones.

Now, go through that list of unanswered questions and attempt again to answer them. Here is where your recording of the possible answers for each hard question will save even more time. If, for example, you found question 7 a sticky one, an unskilled person would only make a note of the question number and go back to it. But being the alert test taker you are, in addition to the number of the question, you also were able to identify and eliminate choices A and D as distrac­tors. So next to the number 7 on your scratch paper, you put B and C, the remaining choices. When you return to question 7, you're only con­cerned with two alternatives, whereas the un­skilled tester is again confronted with four. By initially eliminating one or two of the alterna­tives you spend less time reconsidering the re­maining options. This is a tremendous time saver. It automatically takes less time to think through a reduced number of choices. Why should you have to reconsider ALL the options again, after you've already discarded some during the first attempt. I consider this technique to be the cornerstone of skillful testing.

Some other time factors should also be con­sidered. Your test preview and test review times will also consume portions of the total time limit. However, if you follow the above steps in answering both the easy questions and the diffi­cult ones, you'll have ample time to preview and review.

Your start time, mid-point time and stop time should be noted on the scratch paper. Record your start time, compute your stop time and record it. Now determine your mid-point time. It would be forty-five minutes after your start time in the previous example I used. The mid-point time is used to check your progress at the half-way point. You should be on question 51, forty-five minutes after the start time. But if you aren't, the half-way mark is the time to adjust your pace for the remainder of the test. If you happen to be on question 39 at the forty-five minute point, you now know you'll have to increase your pace for the remaining questions. Hopefully, you'll be past question 50, if so, continue at the same comforta­ble pace. The additional time can always be used at the end.

Since pace is time oriented, let's discuss it here. Work as rapidly as possible, but carefully, without sacrificing accuracy. During the testing session, try and take a break every half hour to clear your mind. This break should only be from forty-five to sixty seconds. Close your eyes, stretch your limbs and relax in the chair to rejuvenate yourself, mentally and physically. Practice being the last to leave the testing room.

Use all available time. Chapter 7 mentions the productive things you should engage in during the remaining minutes of the session. Follow these time guidelines and you'll conquer your worst test
enemy, time.

WHEN TO GUESS

Always! Forget about everything you've heard before. Give yourself permission to guess when all other techniques fail. The odds are in your favor whenever you guess, with one minor exception.
Before I address when not to guess, let me explain why I strongly encourage you to always guess.
There are two types of tests you may take. The first kind is a standard test without a scoring formula or any penalty for guessing. In other words, if you correctly answered eighty questions out of one hundred, your score would be 80. The number of questions you answered. correctly is your final grade. Your wrong answers won't count against your score, they're just incorrect. This kind of exam can be identified when you read the test directions. It will encourage you to answer every question, or guess at questions. If the directions DO NOT contain a statement warning you "not to guess" or mention a scoring formula, you're taking this type of test. On this test, guess, guess, guess! What can you lose? The wrong answers can't affect your score. Without any knowledge of the questions you're guessing on, the law of averages says you'll answer one out of every four correctly. You have a 25% chance of getting each question right, assuming there are four alternatives. With five alterntive-questions, you still have a 20% chance of answering a question correctly. There is never ANY reason for not marking something down for each question on a test such as this. Yet some individuals continue to leave items unanswered. It doesn't make any sense.

Many of the tests you'll be taking will be of the scoring formula type. A test of this sort will penalize you for wrong answers. Don't let that stop you from guessing though, because you're still ahead, percentage-wise. This type of a test is also revealed in the test directions. They will either be worded to discourage you from guessing, contain a statement advising you of the penalty for guessing, or mention a scoring formula. These statements shouldn't affect your approach to this test. The statement is only informing you of the ground rules. This is how your final score is arrived at, on a score-corrected test.

I'll use the previous example. You positively knew the answers to eighty of the one hundred questions. After answering those, you guessed at the remaining twenty, and correctly answered eight. The remaining twelve questions you answered incorrectly. Your score before applying the scor­ing formula is 88. Your score will be adjusted by taking one correct answer away from the 88 for every three answers you missed. This reduces your score by four points, leaving you with a final score of 84. You've gained four points by guess­ing, as compared to just responding to only the questions you knew. This illustration was based on a test with four alternatives for each question. For test items containing five choices, one cor­rect response is taken away from your raw score for every four wrong answers.

On an average, chance guessing will net you one correct out of four tries, and all the scoring formula does is to cancel out your chance-guess advantage. Even if you only chance guess, without using any of the skills and techniques, you haven't lost anything. 84 - 4 (12 : 3) = 80, you receive the same score you started with, if you only answered those questions you were very sure of. Now, add the numerous test-taking skills and your subject knowledge to your chance guess fac­tor, and you'll surely answer more than one-fourth of the "guessed-at" questions correctly.

A scientific guide to follow if you're still cautious is: if you can eliminate or discard at least ONE of the alternatives, it is to your advantage to guess. This applies to all multiple­choice questions, regardless of the number of alternatives. Your final score on the next test you take will be higher if you eliminate at least one of the distractors and guess at the remaining alternatives. The facts have been given to you. Now it's up to you to apply them.

Statistically, the only time you shouldn't guess is when you can't eliminate any of the choices, and you're taking the type of test with a scoring correction formula. It is true that in this situation you don't have an advantage, but you're not at a disadvantage either. The odds are even. For that reason, I'll guess without hesita­tion. I have nothing to lose, and neither have you.

CHANGING ANSWERS

Some say it's OK, others say it shouldn't be done. I say the average test taker can improve their score by changing answers--if. The "if" is significant. "IF" YOU HAVE INDISPUTABLE EVIDENCE that the option you previously selected is wrong, then change it. Your proof must be undeniable and beyond reasonable doubt. A number of studies have indicated that scores usually improve when answers are changed. Some conditions I consider valid enough to change answers are: misreading the question originally, recall of information which had previously slipped your mind, the answer revealed elsewhere in the test, and a previous oversight of a relevant fact.
Never change an answer on a second hunch! First impressions are usually correct. A more individual approach to changing answers is to analyze the type of person you are. There are those who habitually change answers from right to wrong, and others who customarily change from wrong to right. You can verify which category you're in from returned tests. By now, you should be aware of your habits, and you may want to use this as a guide in future tests.

SCRATCH PAPER
Never be without scratch paper. It's the most important item other than your pencil, when you're taking any multiple-choice test. If you aren't issued paper, request it. I've never been denied it in a testing session. However, avoid bringing paper into the testing room. The test administra­tor may view this with suspicion. You don't need that. You may, however, on a rare occasion have to search for some, if the test proctor doesn't have any. Just obtain permission.

Let us discuss how to use the scratch paper. As soon as you are in the testing room and have paper available, start jotting down the formulas, dates, lists, names, devised acronyms and abbre­viations you want to recall during the test. You've committed them to memory up to this time, so relieve your mind now, and put them on paper. It's much easier to read them during the test than to mentally recall them. You'll be under much pressure, so give yourself a break. There is nothing illegal or unethical in doing this, as long as you didn't bring them in the room with you recorded on something.

During the test, use the paper to jot down those hard questions, along with the remaining alternatives you selected for further considera­tion. If you can't recall this great time-saving technique, read the "EASY QUESTIONS FIRST" section again. Scratch paper is also needed to determine the composition of the test.

TEST SUCCESS
A Cornell University investigator surveyed 240 high school students, who were high-scoring test takers. They were asked what suggestions they would give a new student unfamiliar with the school's 'tests. Their tips are rank-ordered:

Read Directions                                                                      44%
Don’t spend too much time on one question               27%
Re-check your answers for errors                                         20%
Guess ifyou don’t know the answers                                      18%
Eliminate possible foils and distractions                                 17%
Look for leads from other questions                                       13%
Answer easier questions first                                                  8%
Plan your time                                                                         7%
Don’t read into questions too deeply                                       5%

A groud of college students thought that the two post important reasons for their high performance on tests were “test understanding” and “comprehension and reading ability”. Interestingly enough, knowledge of the subject matter was NOT usually listed among the top reasons given by any of the studies in which students themselves were asked about test success.

I consider this chapter critical to test success. Become very familiar with these principles. Review them before each test. Knowing and applying these basic guidelines will do more for you on test day than all the strategies combined. Let’s resume the test preparation sequence on the morning of the test.

3
DAY OF THE TEST

PLAN YOUR MORNING
Last night you retired earlier than normal, therefore this morning you shouldn't have any difficulty getting up a few minutes earlier. Set your alarm clock to insure this. It's important to follow your daily morning routine and to resist the urge to cram. Have a "test morning" breakfast which should be sustaining, containing proteins and light sweets. Stay away from fats and starches, as much as possible.

A physical and mental warm up is helpful. Light exercise before a bath or shower will relieve some of the effects of sitting during the test. A quick review of concepts, generalizations, key points and formulas will start those brain cells functioning. Gather up and take your testing materials with you as you depart home earlier than normal. Being late for a test is a demoralizing and embarrassing experience. Don't cancel out all your planning and preparation with a late start.

ARRIVAL
Arrive early, but not too early. When there is too much time before a test, people tend to converse and discuss the test and their apprehen­sions. Avoid these groups; their conversations will usually increase your anxiety level and confuse you unnecessarily. Before you enter the testing room, satisfy your physical needs, go to the restroom, get a drink of water or have that last smoke.

SELECTING THE BEST SEAT
Front row center! That's where it's at. Seat selection is critical to your concentration and comfort. The better seats are in the front of the room. The less distractions (people, furniture, pictures, and windows) between you and the test administrator, the better. Friends and attractive individuals will also distract you at the very time you need full concentration.

As for the comfort aspects, pick a seat away from the window. Drafts and glare will hinder your performance. Sit where you'll have proper lighting and adequate ventilation. If there are different types of chairs in the room, select the most comfortable one, even if it means moving it to your preferred location.

PRE-TEST ACTIVITIES
Once you're settled in the seat, stay there. Your remaining time before the test should be spent in pre-test activities. Pay no attention to others. Your first concern is to write down those lists, formulas, key ideas, acronyms, etc., you've memorized for the test. The procedure for securing paper was discussed in the "SCRATCH PAPER" sec­tion. Once you've relieved your mind of that burden, it's time to relax your body and mind.

As mentioned before, a limited degree of stress and tension is healthy. Beyond that point they're detrimental. A few simple exercises will enable you to achieve the desired level of relaxa­tion and calm before the exam. First, loosen your tie, belt, shoe laces and other restricting arti­cles. Slow down your breathing and breathe deeper than normal. Close your eyes and go through a relaxation sequence. If you're not familiar with this, read one of the many books on relaxation. A typical relaxation sequence involves alternately tensing and relaxing muscles in limbs and other parts of your body in separate steps. Engage in this activity until you're either almost in twi­light consciousness, or the test administrator jolts you out of it for the start of the test. If the former occurs first, slowly regain complete consciousness. You will now be free of excessive tension and stress.

This is the best time to become familiar with your provided testing materials, if they're avail­able. Look at your answer sheet or card. Develop a working knowledge of its layout, format and the location of the response areas. After you start the test is the worst time to try and figure it out. Glance at the test booklet covers. You may discover a mistake. A wrong or outdated test error is best corrected before the exam starts. If there is any remaining time, use it to mentally review your test-taking skills. Also keep in mind, a skilled test taker, such as you, can increase scores from 10  to 20%. Good luck.


4
WITH TEST IN HAND

TEST DIRECTIONS
Reading and understanding test directions are critical. Don't underestimate their importance. I was guilty of not reading the directions, and did it cost me! In the early 1970's I took a promotion test. Individuals in my occupation were given an older edition of the current test, while all others used the current edition. The test adminis­trator read the directions aloud, using the new edition. I assumed that everyone had the same test and listened intently to him without following his delivery in my own booklet. My older edition allowed a longer completion time than the edition the others had. I took the test, and later that day discovered from a co-worker that I should've received additional time. I verified this, submitted a written protest, and it was eventually acted on at the highest level of the organization. They stated that although I'd been denied sufficient testing time, it would be an injustice to the other individuals if I was allowed to retake the test. Don't let that happen to you.

Read along CAREFULLY, as the test proctor reads the directions aloud. If you have any questions, ask. Don't hesitate--your score will affect your career and life. The same applies to directions for each part of a test. The test maker wouldn't put directions before each separate part if there wasn't a difference between the various sections. Take a hint and read them.

SCANNING THE TEST
You've just been told to start the test--the clock is running, and the first thing you want to do is get started with question 1. DON'T! Force yourself to overview the entire examination. It's not time wasted. A complete preview starts you off in the right direction. It provides you with key information on: exam-level of difficulty, complex­ity, scope and coverage areas. Once you've deter­mined those things, you can gear up mentally. An exam scan doesn't imply a complete and thorough reading of each question. It's simply a casual, cursory, superficial examination of the entire test., Flip through the pages, and casually glance at the questions. Stop at questions that draw your interest and read them in detail.

Once you've completed the preview, you know what to expect. From that point on, your subcon­scious mind is working on those questions you read during the overview, while your conscious mind is concentrating on the question you're actually solving at present. Keep in mind that this over­view is consuming only a small portion of your total time limit (one to three minutes). Adjust your pace accordingly. Without a test overview you start lost, with it, you have a road map.

YOUR STARTING POINT
Start any place you want to. We've all been told to start at the beginning of anything. But, are we penalized if we don't start there? No! Begin with the questions you feel most comfortable with, assuming of course, you are permitted to. Some tests are sectionalized: they group the related questions together. On these tests, if you have more knowledge in a particular area, start there. Build up your confidence early for those more difficult questions later. However, here is a word of caution--if you decide to take this approach; double check where you place your re­sponses. Placing the response for question 46 in the response area for question 47 will foul up all questions after that point, until you discover and correct it. Correction takes valuable time. This approach is a useful one if you test in a subject that you have strong and weak areas in.

READ QUESTIONS CAREFULLY
Every question on a test contains key words, phrases and terms. If you miss or overlook these, you'll likely miss the question. Read EVERY word of a question. Hasty reading will cost you points. As you read, locate the key terms. Underline them, if you're permitted to mark in the test booklet. They are usually near the end of the question. Look for them. After reading, try to anticipate the answer, but don't misinterpret the question. Now read ALL the alternatives. Read every word of each alternative. Instead of jumping to a conclu­sion, temporarily delay answering until you have related the question stem to each choice and each choice to the other choices.

If you still consider your first choice the best choice, mark it. Usually first impressions are correct ones, so stick with it unless the comparison exercise above reveals something you hadn't considered previously. Remember, take one question at a time. While you're working on a question, mentally block out all other questions. Think of a hundred-question test as one hundred separate tests.

5
KEY WORDS AND PHRASES

ABSOLUTES
Key terms are the meat of a question. They may take the form of key words or key phrases. They're found in both the question stem and in the alternatives. Identify and consider them when answering a question and you won't have a problem. Overlook or ignore them, and you're in trouble. They are the essence of the statement.

Key terms are roughly equivalent to verbs in importance. The verb in a sentence is the action word that describes what is occurring. Without it the sentence has no meaning. In test taking, the key term is that critical cue to guide your thinking and treatment of the phrase or statement. Key terms describe the limit to be taken into account when considering the statement. They also indicate the degree of qualification to keep in mind when examining the phrase, or they provide the determining factor to pay attention to when inspecting a statement.

The most restrictive of the key terms is the absolutes. Watch carefully for words like:

ALWAYS                     NEVER
ABSOLUTELY            ONLY
MUST                             ALL
CONSTANTLY           NONE
SOLE                    EVERY
NECESSARY             INVARIABLY

These words, and others, severely limit the statement they're used in. They give the phrase a note of finality. Failure to spot them will usually lead you to mark an opposite and incorrect choice.

QUALIFIERS
The second category of key terms is the qualifiers. Rather than restrict, they define, alter or modify the statement they're in. State­ments containing these specifying words are mostly true. Here are a few of the more common ones:

after                 frequently        more
average           generally         most
best                 greatest           often
but                   highest or
chiefly             in general        partly
coincide           last                   perhaps
could               later                 probably
during              least                 rarely
easiest lowest              seldom
eventually        mainly             smallest
exactly                        maximum        sometimes
except             may                 tallest
first                  minimum         usually

These words in a statement, usually provide sufficient qualifications to make it correct. This isn't always true however, so be cautious.

 

DETERMINERS
Unlike absolutes and qualifiers, determiners are phrases that give the statement or alternative a certain perspective. A specific mental viewpoint or relationship is presented when they're used. Some of these are:
as judged by                you should
on the average            most likely
most nearly                 the correct approach
was based on         was responsible for
most important            only part
compared with       arising out of probably because generally caused by
depended upon           as the result of
caused by                   main advantage
grew out of                  consists of
decreased by              probable cause

A point of reference is established when these phrases are included in a statement. Concen­trate on the perspective presented when you evalu­ate them.

FOREIGN AND STRANGE WORDS
Test makers can generally come up with three plausible options for a question. But for some unknown reason they feel they must have four. The fourth alternative sometimes contains a strange or foreign word or phrase. Some you could see on tests are:

STRANGE      FOREIGN
canniken         edelweiss
flummex          Kadai
hyoid               Marchesa
caoutchouc     tarantass
inspissate        rasbora

These words in technical or foreign language tests may be legitimate; on general tests, treat them as distractors. They make one less option to consider.

 

KEY WORD PERCENTAGES

In a classic study of many classroom (teacher-made) tests, Herbert E. Hawkes, E. F. Lind­quist, and C. R. Mann pointed out:

Four out of five statements containing "all" were false;
Four out of five statements containing "none" were true;
Nine out of ten statements containing "only" were false;
Three out of four statements containing "gen­erally" were true;
Four out of five "enumeration" statements were true;
Two out of three "reason" or "because" state­ments were false;
Three out of four statements containing "al­ways" were false;
The longer the statement, the more likely it is to be true.

You're now in the testing session. This is where you put it all together. In addition to the general principles mentioned earlier, there are also specific question strategies. These tech­niques will help you deal with individual test questions. Don't underestimate their importance. The strategies and principles used together are an unbeatable combination.

 

6
EXAMINATION STRATEGIES

FREQUENCY OF OCCURRENCE
This type of question on CLEP tests stumped me until I discovered a system to solve it. Briefly glance at the example below, and return to the explanation. Use the following strategy on questions with compound alternatives. The -answer can usually be arrived at WITHOUT knowing anything about the question. To solve it, just count the number of times each individual word or phrase appears among all options. Do that now. The correct answer is the option that has the two words that appear most often.

The following languages are spoken in the Comora Islands:

a. Spanish and Arabic
b. Arabic and French
c. German and Italian
d.  French and English

Hopefully you selected option (b). The reason this strategy works is because of the nature of the question. The test maker wants to insure that you know both languages, not just one. If the correct languages appeared only once, they would be paired together as one option. A person aware of only one option could correctly answer without complete knowledge. The test maker prevents this by listing half of the correct choice with an incorrect one in other alternatives. Try it again.

The elements of Ohm's law are: voltage,

a.         capacitance and current
b.         resistance and power
c.         inductance and frequency
d.         current and resistance

This strategy can be used on questions with three elements in each alternative, and also on questions with five alternatives. Although, with these two types, the answer can't always be determined with the same absolute certainty. How­ever, you can eliminate some of the distractors which appear in different options. That will narrow your choices significantly.

LONGEST ANSWER
This strategy was briefly mentioned earlier. More should be said about the longest answer. Distractors (untrue statements) can be stated in a few words. Most test makers don't spend sufficient time composing distractors, because the correct answer is their main concern. Along with concen­trating their major effort on the answer, the answer also has to be qualified, comprehensive and embracing. The results: the keyed response is usually longer than the distractors. This fact is useful if you aren't sure of the correct answer. When uncertain, go with the longest answer and you'll answer more questions correctly, than not.

Life insurance, as a method of saving:

a.       is the best financial approach
b.       is inferior to other plans
c.       would provide less death protection
d.       could be superior to other methods, depending on the person's objec­tives

Transactional Analysis is a way of:

a.         achieving meditation
b.          identifying basic communication patterns
c.         bridging the subconscious
d.         exercising the mind

A/AN CONNECTION

There are certain words "an" precedes and other words that "a" precedes. Words beginning with a vowel sound are usually preceded by the word "an." Example: an apple, an exit, an honor. The words honest and hour are included in this group because they start with a vowel sound, even­though their first letter isn't a vowel. Words beginning with a non-vowel sound (consonants usu­ally) are preceded by the word "a." Example: A woman, a name, a patch. Surprisingly, uniform, union and united are in this group.

You'll find this grammatical mistake primari­ly on teacher-made tests. In haste or oversight, the test maker will include distractors that aren't grammatically correct with the question stem.. Transform this careless mistake into a bonus for you.

A word used in the predicate following a factitive verb to modify its direct object is an:

a. objective complement
b. nonrestrictive clause
c. parenthetical element
d.         split infinitive

In geology, a glacial bowl eroded out of a lake is called a:

a. estuary
b. ostium
c. cirque
d. magnet

 

ROOT AND PREFIX CLUES
The majority of our words came from the Latin and Greek languages. By learning an increasing number of these root words and prefixes, you'll be better prepared to test in most subjects. Knowing the root or prefix will enable you to glean at least a partial meaning from an unfamiliar word. Complete word understanding isn't necessary; a hint is all that's needed sometimes to answer a question. The bibliography mentions some books containing excellent sections on roots and pre­fixes. In your spare time, learn more of these and you'll raise you score even more.

Cuprous metal would appear:

a.         bronze-like
b.         gold-like
c.         silver-like
d.         copper-like

 

When measuring with a nephoscope, you would be mainly concerned with:

a.         heat transfer
b.         sugar level
c.         clouds height
d.         brain waves

 

PHYSICAL POSITION
The physical position of an alternative can many times reveal its importance. I suggest using this strategy only if you're not certain of the answer. Traditionally, the test-option positions are standardized. Meaning, the correct answer will be in the (c) position or (b) position more often than the other two locations. There's a good reason for this. If alternative (a) was correct too frequently, most persons would select it without reading the other options. Test makers also tend to shy away from the extreme options (a) and (d). Test construction specialists want you to hunt for it, and the best way is to bury it between (a) and (d). Therefore, if you're unsure of the answer, choose either (c) or (b), in that order. Chances are, the option probabilities will produce more correct guesses.

NEGATIVE QUESTIONS
Persons unskilled in testing almost always get confused with negative questions. In "fair" questions, the negative word will be underlined, capitalized or typed in italics. Once you discover this type of question, apply the strategy. Since the negative word effectively reverses the mean­ing, read the statement as a positive one by OMITTING the negative word. Now you have a straight-forward statement. Because you changed the stem, you'll have to alter how you answer the alternatives. Instead of answering "yes" to the correct option, you now answer "no" to the keyed response. It takes some practice, but this strate­gy will unconfuse the question.

Which city is NOT in the Eastern time zone?

a. Atlanta
b. New York
c. Chicago
d. Boston

All of the following are American cars EXCEPT:

a.         Mercury
b.         Plymouth
c.         Oldsmobile
d.         Fiat

 

QUESTION AND ANSWER ASSOCIATION
Here is one of those sometimes unavoidable situations for the test makers. They determine that certain subject matter should be tested, however, it is almost impossible to word the stem without giving away the answer. A sincere attempt is made to phrase the stem in such a way as to not reveal the keyed response. In certain cases, however, this isn't possible. Your knowledge of common synonyms (words that mean basically the same) can greatly simplify these questions. Here are some common examples:

athletic = muscular
wisdom = knowledge
detriment = harm
legend = myth
banquet = feast
humane = kind

I've seen extreme cases where the answer actually restates the word in the stem. Once you've discov­ered the synonym, the decision-making for you is over.

In reading development, fixations are directly related to:

a.         comprehension
b.         perception
c.         speed
d.         focusing

As applied to nonverbals, the public sphere is:

a.         nonpersonal interaction
b.         the business bubble
c.       unknown to close friends
d.         beyond your control

RELATED QUESTION DISCLOSURE
Constructing a test is a difficult chore. The problem is complicated even more because of the total number of questions. Thinking up one hundred questions on a subject is hard enough, much less attempting to cross-reference them. Even standard­ized exams occasionally have an unintentional disclosure by a related question.

16. The flower girl in Harold Brig­house's "Maid of France" was:

a.         Paula
b.         Blanche
c.         Cathleen
d.         Anna

Later you read this question:

73. The author of "Maid of France" is:

a.         Dunsany
b.         Brooks
c.         Brighouse
d.         Dowson

You may not know the answer to question 16, but question 73 was answered for you.

Spykman's "Rimland Theory" maintained that the most effective means of achiev­ing global power was:

a.       control of the seas
b.         containment
c.         political control
d.         economic action

Then you see:

Spykman's geopolitical theory placed ma­jor emphasis on:

a.         air power
b.         the rimland
c.       seapower
d.         the heartland

Occasionally, the "answer" question will ap­pear before the related test item that asks the question. When this happens, just note the ques­tion number and locate the other question after you've completed one sweep through the test. To stop and locate the related question in the middle of the answering process will waste precious time.

 

ALL OF THE ABOVE
The frequency of this kind of question has diminished on standardized tests. I still however find them on many teacher-made tests. A question with an "all of the above" alternative is essen­tially a true-false test item. The answer can only be one of two sets of alternatives. Either "all of the above" is correct, or ONE of the other three options. Think about it. Your choice is only between "all of the above" or one other alterna­tive. Being a true-false question, one of two conditions will exist. Either "all of the above" is correct, or it's not. Since "all of the above" alternatives are correct more often, let's solve that type first. When you suspect that "all of the above" is the correct answer, try to identify two of the other options as being correct also. Once you've confirmed those, your search is over. Using the example below: options (a) and (c) are both correct answers to the question, so neither can be the "most correct answer." Therefore, it's choice (d), the all encompassing statement. Don't even concern yourself with option (b). Once you've determined at least two choices are correct, you have the answer.

Which of the following are parts of a suit of armor?

a.         breastplate
b.         goget
c.         visor
d.         all of the above

Now, let's discuss questions when "all of the above" isn't the correct answer. Your approach here is to initially identify a distractor. Once you've found the distractor, you can eliminate it and "all of the above" from further consideration. If one of the options is incorrect, "all of the above" is also incorrect. You're now left with two choices. Take your pick. Just by locating one distractor, you've reduced the odds by one half, and increased your chances of correctly answering the question from 25% to 50%.

In the basic communicative process, feedback is of prime importance to:

a.       the sender
b.       the receiver
c.       the symbols
d.         all of the above

The key word here is "prime." NONE OF THE ABOVE

This question is basically a variation of an "all of the above" type. I can't see the logic behind a question with "none of the above" being the correct answer. It's not directly testing your knowledge of the subject, but indirectly, your ability to identify facts that aren't incorporated in the concept or principle mentioned. The "none of the above" question is also, in essence, a true-false question. The answer must be either "none of the above" or ONE of the other three options. To decide which of these is the correct answer, try to locate a choice that's true. If you can locate it, you have the correct answer. There is no need to go any further.

Which of the following training aids could be used effectively to teach the blind?

a.       tape recorder
b.       35 mm slides
c.       chalkboard
d.       none of the above

On test items that "none of the above" is correct, all you can do is attempt to confirm that the other three choices are not true, and mark "none of the above." There are no shortcuts here.

An automobile engine is mechanically attached to:
a.       the gas tank
b.         the battery
c.         the shock absorber
d.       none of the above

 

RELATIVE POSITION
The relative position of an alternative can provide clues to its correctness. Options are normally placed in ascending or descending order of magnitude. Numbers or qualities either go from low to high or from high to low, within the group of options. Traditional test construction recom­mends enclosing the correct answer within distrac­tors of higher and lower values. This typical ranking is many times an indication that the correct answer isn't the highest or lowest value, but one in between. Use this fact to your advan­tage. On uncertain questions give primary consid­eration to the in-between options. Of course if you're sure of the answer after reading the question, don't use this strategy. But if this strategy is necessary, it will leave you two less alternatives to consider.

Carson City, Nevada is the smallest U. S. state capitol. It has a population of approximately:

a. 5,000
b. 16,000
c. 31,000
d. 48,000

What percentage of imported zinc does America depend upon to meet its consump­tion requirements?

a. 34%
b. 93%
c. 51%
d. 75%


You sometimes see these questions with the alternatives not in their relative positions. Simply unscramble them by listing the values or amounts in their correct order, and then use the strategy.

NONPARALLEL OPTIONS
The alternatives in a question should be equal or alike. They should express the same type of thought, quality or quantity. Options should be in the same category or class. You can't compare apples with oranges, using the same standard of measurement. That's what a nonparallel question is asking you to do. You'll normally find them on a test because the test maker didn't put sufficient thought into devising plausible distractors. Their presence should tell you to eliminate them from consideration.

A highly systematic method of treating problems by the use of algebraic nota­tions describes:

a. algebra
b. calculus
c. addition
d. geometry

Identifying nonparallel options won't neces­sarily provide you with the answer, but this approach allows you to eliminate distractors. The more alternatives you can discard, the closer you are to the answer.

Which of the following is found both in marine and fresh water?

a.         mackerel
b.         porpoise
c.       salmon
d.         perch

 

DOUBLE NEGATIVES
You'll rarely see a double negative question on a test. They are just as confusing to the test makers as they are to the test takers. If I had to give an example of a trick question, this would be it. Look at the example below, and see why. Without a definite strategy, the more you read it, the more confusing it becomes. To clear up a double negative question, eliminate both negative words, which changes it to a positive statement. Now read it.

Which is not something a wise test taker wouldn't do?          '

a.         not change answers after rereading
b.         change answers after rereading
c.         not answer uncertain questions
d.         be the first to leave the room

Two negative terms in a sentence neutralize each other, so consider it a positive statement.

"X" SUBSTITUTION
Math problems are difficult for most individ­uals. When the unknown factor "x" is present, the level of difficulty increases. Substituting a known number or amount can greatly simplify solv­ing it. When you substitute, just select a number. Make it easier for yourself and choose a simple number. Replace the unknown with your selected number and solve the problem. After solving it, convert the answer back to the "x" format or use it to determine the correct option. This system really simplifies the problem solving steps.

While shopping at the supermarket you purchase, among other things, a can of cherries at a cost of "x" cents. The jar of dressing you selected is priced at 2x cents. The cigarettes were priced at 3 times the cost of the dressing. What is the difference in cost, between the cherries and the cigarettes?

a.       4x
b.       4x + 3
c.        5x
d.         5x + 5

A word of caution: you can only use this substitution method on items containing "multiple" elements exclusively. In the example above the element values were x, 2x, and 6x. Once a variable such as 2x + 10 is introduced in the question, substituting isn't a foolproof approach.

JUDGMENT QUESTIONS
There are factual questions and there are judgment questions. Factual questions can be an­swered with a definite yes or no: true or false. Judgment questions are different. There may not be a definite, supportable answer to it--but a stand­ard is used. The answer is the choice that knowledgeable, capable and experienced individuals agree the answer to be. There is a general consensus among them as to the preferable answer. To answer judgment questions, you must think like the test maker thinks and use common sense. Disregard your preferences and opinions, and mark "the book" answer. During a test is the wrong time to voice your disagreement or answer "in spite." Your score will reflect this damaging act of defiance. Answer it as the experts agree it should be answered and you'll be points ahead.

A serious accident occurs five-hundred yards in front of you. As a driver you should:

a.         continue driving
b.         stop and help
c.         say a prayer
d.         drive more carefully

Your goal in presenting a technical briefing is to:

a.         state a position
b.         indicate its shortcomings
c.         provide your opinion
d.         present the facts

 

DECEPTIVE COMPUTATION
Whenever you see a math question, you assume some computation is required. For deceptive compu­tation-type questions, that's what the test maker wants you to think. These questions, at first glance, appear to require the use of higher math to solve them: but not so. The long and complicat­ed stem is designed to give you that impression. When you're presented with a math type question-­stop and determine what it's asking for. Ignore the unessentials. Forget the parts that don't directly relate to solving the problem. Most deceptive computation questions can be solved by logical reasoning, without the use of any compli­cated computation.

Compute the area of this circle with a 450 sector area of 13 square inches.

  



a. 78
b. 104
c. 127
d. 131

 

 

Try and figure out the above question before you continue reading. Let's use the strategy. If you look carefully at the circle you can see the sector (slice) is a definite portion of the complete circle. How many of these sectors make up the circle? Mentally double the slice and you'll see that two sectors are 1/4 of the circle. If two sectors are 1/4 a circle, then one sector is 1/8 of a circle. Multiply the sector area by 8 and you'll have the answer. Common sense, logical reasoning and careful observation are all that are needed for deceptive-computation type questions.

You determine your monthly car operating cost to be $75.00 for every 1,000 miles driven. Last month you drove 2,300 miles. Your operating cost was:

a. $152.50
b. $172.50
c. $142.50
d. $92.50

A careful look at both the figures in the stem and in the alternatives will put you on the right track. Last month's mileage was more than twice the 1,000 mile standard. All alternatives less- than twice $75.00 are distractors. With two choices left, common sense tells you $152.50 is too close to $150.00, considering last month's mileage was 300 miles over your 2,000 mile refer­ence. You have the answer. You can save time on many math questions by carefully analyzing them and taking a simple approach.

COMPLEX QUESTIONS
Have you ever read a question that gave you a headache? I have, and it was a complex question. They appear to be the most difficult questions on a test. Don't let their perplexing stem and multitude of options trick you into believing that they're more difficult than any other question. They aren't: in fact, some are easier. An effec­tive plan of action is all you need to solve these. Look at the question below and refer to the explanation following it.


As a home health aide, you are serving a patient her meal. In which order should the following steps be accomplished? (1) provide eating utensils; (2) wash your hands; (3) dispose of leftovers; (4) prepare food; (5) serve food.

a. 4, 2, 1, 4, 3
b. 2, 1, 5, 3, 4
c. 4, 2, 1, 5, 3
d. 2, 4, 1, 5, 3

Since the first number in all options is either 2 or 4, first determine which is the first step. Follow the same procedure with the last numbers 3 and 4. Then locate the alternative that has the first and last number in the correct slot and that's the answer. If two options have the first and last step correct, study the internal steps and determine, using logical reasoning, the proper sequence. Just by identifying the first and last steps you can usually eliminate half the alterna­tives. Knowing all the steps isn't necessary. Partial knowledge and common sense is all you need.

You decide to fix that leaky faucet. With all parts and tools available, which sequence should you use to repair it? (1) separate stem and packing nut; (2) put it back together; (3) remove stem and packing nut; (4) shut off wa­ter; (5) remove faucet handle.

a. 5, 4, 3, 1, 2
b. 4, 1, 5, 2, 3
c. 4, 5, 3, 1, 2
d. 5, 2, 4, 3, 1

In addition to the above type of complex question, there is another kind. The previous type simply requested the proper sequence. For this next type, you have to pick items from a list that apply to the question. The prime skill you'll use here is the process of elimination.

Cost is an important consideration in purchasing a home. The price of a home is primarily determined by these: (1) improvements; (2) real estate agent; (3) neighborhood; (4) air rights; (5) zon­ing; (6) square footage

a. 1, 3, 4 and 6 only
b. 2, 4, 5 and 6 only
c. 1, 2, 4 and 5 only
d. 1, 3, 5 and 6 only
e. 2, 3, 4 and 6 only

There are a number of ways to approach this problem. Process of elimination is perhaps the fastest way. Identify one element that normally WOULD NOT affect the price, and eliminate the choices containing that element. That leaves you with two or three remaining. Attempt to identify another distractor, and eliminate those choices. The remaining choice is the correct answer.

 

INCONSISTENT FORM
Grammatical cues make this strategy possible. All choices in a question should be grammatically correct with their stem. When they aren't, the complete statement (stem and alternative) doesn't sound right when you read it. It's important to "read through" the stem, attaching each choice to it, to form a complete sentence. This requires you to read the stem four times on a four alternative question. When doing this, if an alternative doesn't sound correct, or isn't consistent with the other options, it probably isn't the answer. Eliminate the inconsistent choices, and you're left with fewer to select from, or the correct answer.

Federal education grants were started by President Kennedy. The basic purpose of a grant is:

a.         supplementing college cost
b.       to help the needy student
c.       to award academic excellence
d.       achieve high grades

To be a "drug on the market" is:

a.         consuming over-the-counter pre­scriptions
b.         taking illegal substances
c.       dealing in drugs
d.       to be excess to demands or needs

 

SIMILAR CHOICES
Certain questions you'll encounter have op­tions that are closely related or almost identi­cal. This should be your clue to apply the similar-choice strategy. Just by identifying this type of question, you've reduced it from a multi­ple choice item to basically a true and false statement. The similar choices cannot BOTH be correct, as you must select the MOST correct answer. If both related options are equal in completeness and scope, the answer has to be an option other than the related ones.

A synonym for the word bequem is:

a.         hazard
b.         risk
c.         comfortable
d.         danger

A quenella is a:

a.         doughnut
b.       garnish
c.       cake
d:         tart

Another situation could, however, be present. One option may be more encompassing and inclusive than the other similar option. When this is present, the answer is either the option of greater scope, or the opposite choice. This proc­ess of elimination will reduce the alternatives to a more manageable number.


Yttrium is a type of:

a.         metal
b.         magnesium
c.         nickel
d.       gas

 

OPPOSITE CHOICES

A close relative of the similar choice ques­tion is the opposite choice item. The difference here is that the options oppose each other. The usual opposite-choice question will have two op­tions saying almost the same thing, and the other two options stating a conflicting viewpoint. Your initial decision isn't to decide which of the four choices is correct; first determine which of the two differing viewpoints is accurate. Then select the more encompassing and complete option of the two. If both choices are equal in scope, and you don't know which is correct, take a wild guess.

In business, the victim of a "bait and switch" scheme is the:

a. customer
b. merchant
c. retailer
d.  woman

A variation of the above question is one containing the options "all of the above" or "none of the above." If "all of the above" is an option, it must be a distractor. The alternatives that express opposing viewpoints can't BOTH be correct, therefore "all of the above" is automatically eliminated. Questions with "none of the above" aren't as simple to evaluate. Normally "none of the above" is also a distractor. If it's the correct answer, very little is gained from the question. The only purpose it could serve is to test your ability to identify incorrect options, while never determining whether you actually know the answer. So proceed with caution.

 

A source of income for the federal government is corporate and personal income taxes. In perspective, corporate and personal tax rates:

a.       vary in many aspects
b.         are identical
c.       share a common tax schedule
d.       none of the above

 

OVERLAPPING ALTERNATIVES
Earlier I discussed the most encompassing, most comprehensive, and the most inclusive answer. The overlapping alternatives strategy is fundamen­tally that approach. This technique can be applied to the following question.

 

We communicate in numerous ways. Listen­ing constitutes what percentage of our average communicating day?

a. less than 30%
b. less than 40%
c. more than 50%
d. more than 60%

 

Notice how the two sets of alternatives overlap each other. If (a) is true, then (b) must also be true. less than 30% is included in less than 40%. If (d) is correct, (c) has to be correct also. It is apparent that more than 60% is included in more than 50%. These two keen observa­tions will allow you to quickly change a four-alternative question into a less complicated two-choice item. Since option (b) encompasses (a), and choice (c) overlaps (d), your choice is either (b) or (c).

In England and Germany, one trillion dollars is written with:

a.       less than nine zeros
b.       less than twelve zeros
c.       more than fifteen zeros
d.       more than eighteen zeros

 

7
AFTER THE EASY QUESTIONS

NOW THE HARD QUESTIONS

You've answered the easy questions, and by now your mental powers are at their peak. This is the best time to deal with the more difficult test items. Somewhere on your scratch paper you should have a list of these uncertain test items, along with their possible answers for reconsideration. Start at the top of the list and work down. Return to the beginning of the test and read the first unanswered question again. If you previously iso­lated the answer to two or three options, only consider those.

During this phase of testing, you will proba­bly have happen to you what almost always happens to me--those hard questions suddenly become easi­er? I can't completely account for this sudden insight. I assume it's a combination of factors. As you progress through the test, you steadily increase your level of concentration, and your mind focuses almost exclusively on the subject. At this point, you're able to solve the more diffi­cult questions you were unable to solve at the beginning of the test. Your subconscious mind has had a chance to sort things out and see new relationships. Exposure to all the questions gives


you added perception. This insight, many times, will trigger a chain of thought leading to the answer. Take advantage of this and overwhelm those troublesome questions.

An efficient plan of attack is required. If you can't come up with the answer after reading it twice, forget that question and go to the next one. Use the same time-saving procedure as before. After you've answered all the easier ones, start at the top of your list again, and go through the remaining unanswered test items. Repeat this pro­cess a total of three times. The still unanswered questions are now classified as "chance-guess" items. All you can do is guess; so guess.

COMPUTE YOUR "ROUGH" SCORE
At the end of the session, compute your "rough" score. Count the number of questions you didn't know. Divide that number by the number of alternatives or options in one test question. The answer you arrive at is the approximate number of "uncertain" or "guessed-at" questions you statis­tically answered correctly. Add that figure to the number of questions you answered the first time through, and you have your "rough" test score. Remember it, and compare it with the actual score you receive. I've had much success calculating my scores this way, and I'm sure you'll experience the same success. This method doesn't consider certain variables, as I feel they cancel each other out.

A RESPONSE FOR EVERY QUESTION
To insure there aren't any unmarked test items, you should perform a response count. Since you can't be sure by just glancing at the answer sheet, a full count is necessary. But don't start with question 1. If you do, and get distracted during the count, the tendency is to resume counting at the location you thought you left off at. That may not be true, as you could've missed a response. Therefore, begin counting at some unconventional place. Question 100 or at the top of a column is a convenient starting point. If you discover an unanswered question, locate it in the test book to determine where you went wrong. Also check the question preceding it to verify its correctness. There could be a possibility of an earlier error, creating a series of wrong re­sponses. If this did happen, you must go back every five questions until you locate the origin of your error. The response check is an excellent way to insure a response for every question.

CHECK FOR MISMARKS
You now know that all the desired marks are on the answer sheet, but you don't know if they're in the correct places. In the remaining time, .accomplish a response verification. This step is not intended as a double-check on your choice of answers. This isn't the tine to change answers. It's designed to verify that you responded the way you intended to. An error, such as marking (d) for (b), will cost you points. A response verification is designed to locate and correct this mistake. Start at question 1, and continue from there. Read each question stem and identify the option you previously selected. Refer to the answer sheet and determine if that's the response you actually marked. The verification takes less time than you might think, and it's a worthwhile check.

DETERMINE TEST COMPOSITION
This should be the last post-test activity, if you have time left. Determining the test composition isn't a must. You decide whether you'll do it or not. I routinely do it, just to determine the emphasis placed on different sub­-subject areas.

After a test in psychology, I want to know the number of questions that addressed behavior, or the percentage of human development questions on the test. My approach is to list the areas, e.g., learning, personality, deviance, etc., on my scratch paper. As I review each test question, I classify it and mark it under the various divi­sions I listed. After completing this exercise, I'm aware of areas of concentration and omission. I go a step further and compute the percentage each subject area consumed of the complete test. With that knowledge, I can better prepare for similar exams in the future.

 

8
AFTER

TEST REVIEW
You've probably been wondering about the cassette recorder. Now is the time for it. The test should be reviewed immediately after you leave the testing room. Satisfy your physical needs first, but don't do anything else before the review. At this point in time, the test is still fresh in your mind. You can recall the vast majority of it. Your ability to recall will quickly diminish as the minutes pass. Review now!

I go directly to a quiet place and start looking through my study and reference materials. To provide a record of my review, I use a cassette recorder because I can't write fast enough. I record all the experiences I've been exposed to during the test. I verify the correct answers and my errors. This review record becomes my study reference if I ever take a similar test again. This record is a PERSONAL guide, not to be given or loaned to anyone. Serious legal and ethical problems will arise if you compromise the exam. Prevent any possible difficulty and keep it to yourself. That way, you're within your legal rights. Most individuals already review their exams, but without a definite system.

During the review or at some later date, review the review. Find out why you missed certain questions and capitalize on those mistakes in future tests. Determine your success rate on the questions you guessed at. There are many personal applications. It will be one of your most useful study references in the future.

AFTER THOUGHTS
Give yourself a pat on the back for success­fully applying the guidelines, techniques and strategies of test taking. You can be confident that you'll receive the highest possible score. Mentally review the test-taking skills to identify specific areas you may need to read again for better understanding. It's never too early to prepare for your next test.