I Just Don’t Test Well

How many of you have used the excuse “I just don’t test well” when discussing grades with professors or other professionals? Aside from the fact that excuses never go over well (more on that in a future post), everyone can improve test taking ability if they try. Here are a few tips.

1. Study

If you know the material as well as you know how to order a pizza, then your chances for success are high. Most of the time it isn’t your lack of skill in multiple choice exams, rather it is your lack of knowledge on the material being tested. Get to know your professors and what they value most in what is being taught. Talk to the TAs and follow study guides. Team up with others who know the material well, or who have good study habits, and learn from them.

2. Discuss Answers with the Professor

If you are like me, then you may over think an question or two. Go to the professor, explain your reasoning for an answer choice, and learn what the question was truly asking or why one answer was better than the other. When you do this, you can learn how a professor thinks when writing a test and will be better prepared for the next exam.

3. Seek Help from Books and Education Professionals

Plenty of books, blogs, and education professionals exist to help you learn to be a better student. You can learn how to study more effectively or perform better on multiple choice exams. Some options are free, while others might cost anywhere from a few dollars to a hundred. Evaluate your needs and goals and pick something that will help you the most.

I remember trying to get professors to give me letters of recommendation for graduate school my final semester of undergraduate studies. I asked one professor for a letter and explained that the only reason I had a B in the class was because “I don’t test very well.” The professor responded by saying, “well, neither did I at first, but I took classes and tutoring to fix the problem; you did not.” I did not get a letter of recommendation from that professor. The reason I gave–excuse, rather–was not acceptable; and it never will be.


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