Self Help

Graphic Organizer

This fill-in grid will help you organize and keep track of all your important class information from: the course name and number, credit hours, percentage of final grade, and also where the final exam will be held.


Graphic Organizer 001 (PDF)


Test Taking and Test Anxiety: what is test anxiety, its symptoms  and how to reduce the anxiety.

Reasons for tests

  • Tests scores are used to help decide students’ grades.
  • Tests motivate students to study and learn material.
  • Scores provide teachers feedback about effectiveness of teaching.
  • Scores provide students feedback on their progress in courses.
  • Assesses critical thinking skills and application of knowledge.


Test Taking Exploration

Complete the following sentences.

  • As exam time gets close one thing I notice I do is …
  • When it comes to taking tests, I have trouble …
  • The night before a test I usually …
  • The morning of the test I usually …
  • During a test I usually feel …
  • After the test I usually …
  • When I get my score I usually feel …

Brainstorm all the reasons, rationalizations, justifications, and excuses you have used to avoid studying.


Source: Ellis, David B. (1985).  Becoming a Master Student.  Fifth Edition, Rapid City, SD:  College Survival, Inc. p.168-9.



  • Conduct frequent reviews in advance.
  • While organizing your notes, review all major concepts and course vocabulary.  Be able to explain them.
  • If given a review, do it first!
  • Survey 3RQ System
  • -Survey it
  • -Read it
  • -Recite it
  • -Review it
  • -Question it


  • Use your syllabus, study guides, notes, etc. to identify information you should have learned for an exam or the whole semester.
  • Engage your senses to enhance your learning.  Remember, study actively.
  • Work with a classmate and test each other over the material.
  • Know the test format.
  • Graphic Organizers as Study Aids


While Taking the Exam

  • Scan the entire test.
  • Evaluate the test
  • Budget your time
  • Note points for each question
  • Pace yourself and track your time
  • Jot down important points you remember on the test


At the Test

  • Stay in the mindset of the test; focus on the test and not the outcome.
  • Mark questions you need to go back to after you have answered the questions you know for sure.
  • Try to answer every question.
  • If there are bonus questions, go for it.


Objective Exams

  • Read directions and mark key words.
  • Decide your own answer before looking at the choices.
  • Read all choices before choosing one.
  • Eliminate obviously wrong answers and then reduce the possible answers to two.
  • If unsure about an answer, guess.  Leave no blanks.
  • Read questions looking for multiple concepts that may be addressed.  This can be subtle. Use grammatical clues.
  • If you change your mind based on new information, you may change your answer.  If vacillating between 2 options, go with your 1st choice.
  • Use all of the test period.
  • Check your work. Rushing can cause careless mistakes.


Essay Exams

  • Scan the test and review the content.
  • Read directions carefully; ask questions if you don’t understand the directions.
  • Do exactly what the directions say.
  • Sequence for essay exams:
  1. Read the question
  2. Think about what to include in the answer
  3. Briefly outline what you plan to write
  4. Complete the outline with pertinent details


Short Answer Exams

  • Know the answer style that your professor expects: short phrases, lists, outlines, full sentences.
  • Use visuals – draw diagrams if appropriate.


Take-Home Exams

  • Create an environment conducive to test taking.
  • Plan a strategy for doing the test.
  • Expect to work long hours to complete the exam.
  • Be prepared to use research if requested.
  • Approach the exam as if you would a paper. Draft, write and rewrite.


Quantitative Exams

  • Analyze before you compute.
  • If a question is not in mathematical notation, translate it to solve the problem.
  • Show your work; teachers may give partial credit for showing you know the math concept and application, even if the final answer is incorrect.
  • Check your work systematically.


Open-Book Exams

  • Mark important pages in your textbooks and notes for easy reference.
  • Jot down important information in textbook margins.
  • If classroom notes are allowed, mark those too.


Final Exam Review

1.     Start early

  • Preparation for finals begins even BEFORE the actual week of final exams.
  • A semester’s worth of information can’t be jammed into one or two nights of studying.

2.     Sleep

  • 7 – 9 hours of sleep is recommended.
  • College finals are designed to make you think critically and apply your knowledge. If you are sleep deprived, you won’t be able to comprehend (or answer) challenging questions.

3.      Focus on your notes

  • If you are behind in reading your textbook, you are better off focusing on your notes (assuming you have been to class).

4.     Stop cramming at least five minutes before the test

  • Use this time before the test to relax, catch your breath, get focused and think success.

5.    Stay calm during the exam

  • If at first glance, the test is overwhelming, do not panic.
  • Remind yourself that you are well prepared.
  • Take the exam one question at a time.

What is Test Anxiety?

The uneasiness or apprehension students experience because they must take a test.

  • Anxiety in and of itself is not bad or destructive.  It is helpful at moderate levels since it signals a need for action.
  • Avoid OVERREACTION. This causes high levels of anxiety which can inhibit performance.

Some anxiety is normal.

Adapted from College Study Skills, 5th Ed.  By James Shepherd (1994)



Test Anxiety Checklist

  • I worry about failing tests.
  • I do not sleep well the night before a test.
  • Before or during a test I often perspire excessively, have an upset stomach, feel my heart beating rapidly, or experience shortness of breath.
  • I have difficulty concentrating when I take tests.
  • While taking tests I am often unable to recall information that I learned.
  • I make foolish mistakes when I answer test questions.
  • I become very nervous if time runs out before I am able to answer all the questions on a test.
  • While taking tests, I worry that other students will finish before me or do better than me.

Source:  James Shepherd (1994) College Study Skills, Fifth 5th Ed.


Symptoms of Test Anxiety


  • Insomnia
  • Loss (or increase) of appetite
  • Stomachache
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Boredom
  • Restlessness

Symptoms of Test Anxiety



  • Confusion
  • Panic
  • Mental blocks
  • Fainting
  • Nausea
  • Yawning (yes, this can be a sign of tension!)

Symptoms of Test Anxiety


  • Mock indifference
  • Guilt
  • Blame
  • Depression
  • Anger

Do you know it, but blow it?

  • Accept that you may not know all the answers.
  • Do not expect perfection.


Reducing Test Anxiety

  • Keep a positive attitude
  • Visualize success
  • Focus on the test
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others
  • Take deep breaths
  • Drink water or have a mint
  • Yell “Stop!” (of course, not out loud) to negative thoughts.
  • Momentarily visualize a calming place.
  • Remind yourself that you will get through this.
  • Relax and reward yourself.

Test Taking Presentation – PUCCC (PDF)


Questions? Or need more help.

Contact the Purdue University Calumet Counseling Center

Gyte – 05




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