Saturday, March 30, 2013

Test Taking Tips

These are tips on how to do well on any exam. I placed at state level in many academic competitions throughout my grade school and high school years. These test taking tips will improve your scores. This article has little to do with study. It focuses primarily on other aspects of life which can affect test taking performance.

1. Confidence is second only to ability. Be sure to prepare using equal mixes of the material. Studying just the material you have not yet mastered can be discouraging. Mix in material you feel you already know in order to build confidence.

2. Return to material you have already covered in study. Quiz yourself. On most tests, 90% is recall and 10% is novel application of the material. Realize this: The exam tests your ability to recall formulas and how to use them. In a self quiz, you actually practice for a test by mimicking test conditions.

These test taking tips helping you so far? I tutored math, calculus, trigonometry, algebra and the sciences in college. People requested me by name. This is because these tools brought people with D averages up to B averages- many scoring A grades on exams! Keep reading, there's more:

3. Sleep right. Go to bed at 11 or before. Do not eat for at least one hour before going to sleep. Best is to not eat 3 hours before sleeping, and to not drink 60 minutes before going to bed. Have you heard of the "freshman fifteen"? This refers to young women who enter college and gain 15 pounds. When I was in college at SJSU in 1992, it was just the freshman ten.

Hormones are produced during sleep. Formally, science believed hormones were produced equally all through the night, at a steady rate per hour. More recently, this notion has been replaced. The body produces hormones according to a priority list. It produces several hormones at once, until optimal levels are attained. Then, it ceases a hormone which has reached capacity and begins production on another hormone.

The hormones that limit fat production are one of the last produced. When you begin to lose sleep, fat production suffers. We can reasonably extrapolate that other functions, not just fat production, also suffer from poor, irregular, and insufficient sleep.How much of youthful energy results from an early bed time and sleeping as late as the body wants?

The body is like an organic machine. Care for it. Provide the proper maintenance, and it will operate efficiently and effectively for you.

4. Get regular exercise each week. Three times weekly with about 30 minutes each time makes a big difference. This increases blood flow throughout the entire body and increases the capacity of the cardiovascular system to uptake and transport oxygen- which is rocket fuel for the brain. Did you know that 80% of matriculants to Ivy League schools jog regularly? It makes a difference!

5. Stretch out once in a while. If you are someone who wakes in the morning with a stiff back or other stiff muscles, stretching is for you. This improves circulation and will benefit not just the brain, but the entire body as well. There is a reason airlines recommend stretching before long flights.

6. Quit drinking soda and never drink it ever again in your lifetime. The body operates at a preferred pH balance of about 7.2 to 7.4 (normal saliva ranges 6.0 to 7.4). Just one 12 oz. can of soda drops system pH and it takes the body a full week to recover back to normal pH. Again, treat the organic machine with respect, and it will operate according to the way God designed it. Abuse it and pour in the wrong fuel, and it will first begin to lose slight degrees of efficiency, and then begin to break down.

Did you know that cancer patients have very low pH? It is true. One more reason to never drink cola- it creates an environment favorable to cancer (which is really just fungus, research this.)

Artificial products gunk up the works.
7. This is not just a test taking tip, it's a life tip. Avoid or totally eliminate artificial colors and artificial flavors. One study on grade school children tested their grade level performance, then eliminated artificial colors and flavors for 3 months. At the end of the period during which these fake ingredients were eliminated at school, (but not at home), researchers retested the children. The average test performance improvement was 3 grade levels!

8. Dress to impress. Above, I mentioned confidence. Another factor that boosts self-confidence is a sharp appearance. Impact the room when you enter, and you will impact yourself as well. Wear nice suits even to study. A pressed shirt and tie will prevent you from taking a nap and doesn't feel right slumped into the couch with the remote in one hand.

9. Drink plenty of water. Again: organic machine. Water lubricates, cleanses, and freshens everything inside you.

10. Respect visual stimulants. Classical conditioning is at work all the time. Use this to your advantage. For every unique activity in your life, your body responds by producing what it needs. For example, the site of the gym will cause the body to produce simple sugars to fuel muscles. It has been conditioned to expect this. Even the site of gym clothes, your gym bag, gym membership card, and running shoes will start production of energy.

Your body will develop similar visual stimulators for mental work. Your calculator will definitely be one of these. So will reference books and other study materials. If you can, keep the most powerful icons of study in view during your exam.

I predict that a study using visual stimulants for study periods of specific topics which use different areas of the brain, will produce better results using the conditioned visual stimulators. For example: wearing a gold ring and using a specific pencil to study history, vs. wearing a blue shirt, a gemstone ring, and using a very different pencil to study chemistry.

Most drug addicts develop a tolerance to drugs. Their body becomes conditioned to produce drug-disabling hormones. Visual stimulants, like their dealer's street corner, a syringe, or crack spoon set off their bodies defense works. Most drug overdoses are total rookies who have no system built up, or veterans who took their usual amount in a new place- like a toilet stall in a club, where no visual stimulants facilitated their body pre-producing what it needed to negate portions of the drug. 

11. Don't eat anything spicy the day before, or the morning of, an exam. Don't eat at a "greasy spoon", either. Generally, avoid food with the ability to upset your gastrointestinal system. This goes double for people who tend to be nervous at the beginning of exams. Exception: If you eat spicy food every day, don't change a thing.

12. Arrive to your exam seat as soon as you can. Get comfortable with the environment. This is more important for regional competitions and national exams like the ASVAB, SAT, and professional licensing exams- places you have never before seen.

13. Within 15 minutes prior to beginning your exam, get 5 minutes of exercise. Run from your car to the test building, run around your classroom, or do push ups on some grass or against a bench. Also, drink a half cup of coffee. Each of these strategies, independently, increases blood flow to the brain. And, this has been shown to improve test scores an average of 5%. The day I took my exam, I also excused myself to the men's room and jogged there and jogged back to increase the flow of blood.

14. Stop drinking Fluoridated water and use toothpaste without Fluoride. U.S. studies show Fluoride drops IQs by 10 points. Chinese studies show 20 points lost where Fluoride was added to water.


  1. I am writing to see if you would be interested in reviewing A Dictionary of Civil, Water Resources & Environmental Engineering written exclusively for the PE Civil Exam on your website. Apologies for the comment, I cannot locate your email address. Please contact me at harry at

  2. I just flunked my PE exam and came across your blog, wish I had come across it earlier. It was hard studying with two kids under 6 and working. But I love your holistic approach. Will take it again in Oct 2013 and will pass. Amen. I think I lost steam mid way and spend too much time on problems. I probably studies for less than 100 hours. My fault. going to start now. Gives me 5 months. With a 9 month baby I have to stay motivated. It so much easier to slouch in front of the TV after the kids are asleep and chores are done after a full days work than crack open books.


  3. Wow, Ana! That is a full load. Consider bringing in a babysitter for a few hours each week. Go to a library or coffee shop to study. Make sure your family understands the importance of passing the exam.


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