High school students take district- and state-required exams, and some take high school exit exams and college admission tests, but every student takes exams required by teachers in classes during the school year. The different test and question formats influence the best type of preparation and test-taking strategies for the exam, but arriving at the test with mastery of basic testing skills means you have an increased chance to earn a higher exam score.

Prepare for the test by reviewing notes, study guides, and textbooks and reviewing with a student study group using the type of test as a foundation for your prep. Multiple-choice tests, for example, require fact memorization, while essays need clusters of information to write an extended answer.

Bring the necessary test-taking equipment for the exam, including pencils, erasers, and sharpener and check your book bag, pockets, or purse for any items banned from the testing room -- such as graphing calculators.

Read the test directions carefully. Listen to the directions given by the teacher or proctor and read all of the printed directions on the test sheets or booklets. Before you begin, determine whether the test scoring penalizes you for guesses. This type of scoring reduces your score for guessing, so plan to answer only the questions for which you feel somewhat confident about your answers.

Plan your approach to the test by skimming the entire test before you start. Look at the total number of questions and the time allotted for the test segment to determine the approximate time allotted for each question.

Use a blank sheet of scratch paper to align your answers with the correct question number for filling in bubbles or blanks on test answer sheets. If the test proctor doesn't allow this tracking system, check every five questions to make sure your answers align with the proper question numbers.

Answer the multiple-choice and short-answer questions you know first and return to the questions on which you're uncertain later during the test time. Some tests allow you to return to previous sections to complete answers, but many restrict you to answering questions only in one section during a time period. Make sure you understand the test regulations before returning to prior segments to complete answers.

Note your starting time and monitor your time using the room clock or your wristwatch.

Brainstorm and organize essay questions using scratch paper to improve the overall organization of your answer. Time yourself to limit your brainstorming and organization to no more than 10 percent of the timed essay segment.

Review your test answers according to the points assigned to each type of question. Essay and short-response questions typically earn more points than a single multiple-choice question, for example, so review these answers first. After this review, go back to review any unanswered multiple-choice questions.

Items you will need

  • Wristwatch

  • Pencils and pen

  • Extra eraser

  • Pencil sharpener


  • Bring a healthy snack, such fruit or trail mix, to eat during the test breaks when you're taking half-day or full-day exams. Use the short breaks allowed during the testing day to stretch your legs and arms. Leave the room, if possible, to breathe some fresh air, but keep an eye on your watch to return before the test begins again.