How to Take on Tests with Confidence – Part 2

4. Look at the whole test.

In the Classroom

I have three types of students when it comes to initial test reaction. The first group of students stare at their tests with a look of utter betrayal. How dare this test infringe upon their pleasant day of social interaction… that just happens to take place in a school. They don’t even know where to start, and often don’t start until I remind them that the test is timed.

The second group of students are those that dive right in. Who needs to write your name when you’re pretty sure you know the answer to the first question? From there, it’s a race to finish first. When they come to my desk fifteen minutes later with their “completed” tests, I send them back to their desks because, inevitably, an entire section, even page, is left blank… and they still need to write their names.

The final group of students are those that look at the entire test from start to finish. They want to know how many questions the test has, where the matching and multiple choice questions are, and whether or not there is an essay. Once they have surveyed the entire test, they strategically begin.

I haven’t officially tested this theory, but I am fairly certain that the students who take a careful look at the entire test are the students who score higher. Now maybe it’s a personality thing, or maybe because these students don’t leave blanks or run out of time, they do better.  In any case, if you are a student, learn to look at the entire test beforehand. Figure out how many questions you have and how much time you have and do the math. Once you’ve assessed, start.

In Life

I think there are also three general responses to the tests we face in life. The first response is to let the test debilitate you. When the test comes, you are knocked down and have no desire to get back up. Maybe you don’t feel prepared enough, or maybe it came so unexpectedly. In my last post, I talked about expecting tests, but perhaps you weren’t expecting it, then what? The answer: move forward. Let the test reveal to you areas of weakness so that you can become stronger.

The second response is to take on the test and get it over with. Little thought is given to the purpose of the test. You care more about quickly moving through the test than quietly learning from the test. You may get through it, but if you didn’t learn what you were intended to learn, you’re probably going to face the same test all over again. So while you’re in the time of testing, learn what you need to learn. Then if you must face the test again (or another test entirely), you’ll be better prepared for it.

The final response is to look at the test in its entirety. This doesn’t mean that you will know the end result, but you will gain confidence as you work through the test. Look at your own strengths and weaknesses. Find people who have taken the test before and have succeeded (it’s not cheating when it’s life). Determine that you will learn whatever it is that God has for you as you take this test.  

5. Read the directions.

In the Classroom

If I had a dime for every time a student asked me a question about information that was provided in the directions of the test, I would buy myself a Tesla. When they do, I ask them if they have read the directions. There are then two responses. The first response is the one where students re-read the first part of the directions to me and then trail off before getting to the really important part. Sentences—so predictable. I then smile and tell them to read the directions completely. This first response then becomes the second general response, which is “Oh.”

Students, please read the directions carefully and in their entirety. They will tell you when matching choices are used more than once, if you should change false answers to the correct answers, whether or not some of the options are correct, and so much more. Sometimes I want to ignore all questions concerning information found in the directions and let the students sweat it out until they figure it out, but mostly I want my students to succeed. Don’t we all sometimes need a little extra guidance?

In Life

I can’t remember how old I was when I was told that the Bible was my guidebook for life. What I do know is that I have never believed it more than I do now. So many tests and so many trials, and yet God’s Word has always provided the direction I have needed. It applies to everything. In my last post I mentioned that the Bible was the textbook for life. Well, good news, every test in life is an open Book test. You can go straight to God’s Word and get the directions… and the answers!

Caveat. You have to actually open the Book. Imagine the frustration a teacher would feel if she gave her class an open book test and students didn’t even bother to look at the book. I think our Teacher is probably less frustrated and more heartbroken when we neglect to go to His Word for answers. I love Psalm 119:130, “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” If you need direction, if you need answers, allow God’s words to enter your mind and illuminate those dark places.

6. Start with what you know.

In the Classroom

As my students are taking a test, I walk around the room checking their progress. I almost always find at least one who is clearly stuck on a question or section and has resorted to decorating his test with doodles. So I have a little trick I teach my students (if they haven’t already been shown by other wise and insightful teachers): circle the questions you don’t know and move on. You don’t have to answer the questions in order. In fact, I tell them to start with the easiest questions first and then move on to the harder ones. I think that helps them gain confidence to take on the more difficult questions after.

In Life

As we already know, tests can be overwhelming, and even after taking a long look at the test and reading the Directions, we still don’t know where to start. Begin with what you know. Obviously, every test and every person is different, but God is the same, and He will not give you a test that He has not prepared you for. That’s a good place to start. Trust that even in a time of testing God is working for your good. I love this passage in Jeremiah 29.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.”

Look at that last verse I quoted. God said he would bring them back from the place where He had allowed them to be taken captive. He allowed their captivity and yet His thoughts toward them were thought of peace and not of evil. I think throughout the Scripture we find that what we consider bad, God considers good because it is accomplishing His purposes. So start with the goodness of God.

I think we should also start with the lessons we learned from previous tests. Again, the specifics will be different for everyone, but as you face a time of testing consider what got you through before. Did you get godly counsel? Were there specific passages in God’s Word that helped you through? Was there a book that gave you insight? Was it simply, but most importantly, time spent in earnest prayer? Take what you gathered from that and apply it to your current test.

Continue in the things you have learned (2 Timothy 3:14)

Published by Kristina Premo

I drink too many cups of coffee and read never enough books. I teach the coolest students on the planet, and I tell them they are all my favorites (some of them still haven’t caught on and still believe they are my only favorite… don’t tell them). When I’m not grading or reading, I’m hiking, biking, or running (and probably still listening to an audiobook). I hope to inspire everyone around me to become life-long learners!

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