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WAC / Engineering & Technology

Help with Preparing for and Taking an Exam

Every student feels some level of anxiety when it comes to taking a test.  Some ways to lessen your anxiety is by:

Being prepared (more study time = less anxiety)

  1. One or two weeks before your test:

    1. Schedule the test date on your calendar
    2. Create a study plan by marking study hours on your calendar (don’t forget to schedule breaks), using different study methods (studying alone, with a group, or a combination of both), and don’t cram the night before the exam!  
    3. Complete all of the required readings
    4. Study all class notes and handouts   TIP: If your instructor gives you a study guide – use it!
    5. Create/use study aids (i.e. flash cards, outlines, charts, etc.) 
    6. picture of flash card


    1. Use the practice tests in your textbook or create your own.  Imagine what questions you would ask the students if you were the instructor.
    2. Don’t skip class the day before the exam.  TIP: Instructors tend to hint which materials/sections will be on the test.
    3. Ask questions: If you are unclear about anything, don’t be afraid to ask. 
    4. Make sure to get plenty of rest the day before your exam.
  1. The day of your test:
    • Remember to eat. Your brain works better after it’s fueled up.
    • Briefly review your notes (once again – don’t cram).
    • Ask any last minute questions.
    • Take deep breaths – your brain needs oxygen too.
    • Think positive and be confident!


Test-taking Strategies

Step 1 -    Write your name on the exam. 

Step 2 -    Briefly explore all pages of the test to budget your time.  You might see some sections where you will need more/less time (i.e. short essay, multiple choice).

Step 3 -    Read the directions carefully and slowly (maybe more than once).

Directions:  Read the following case scenario. Identify the corpus delicti, and then

Step 4 -    Circle or underline the key direction words.

Directions:  Read the following case scenario. Identify the corpus delicti, and then

Step 5 -    Stuck on a question? Mark the question in pencil and move on. You can come back to it later.  (For example, you can make an arrow mark next to your skipped question).

Mark whether the following is true or false:    
  1.  A visible line is a dark line.  _X_ T  ___ F


2.  A hidden line is a very light line. ___ T   ___ F
  3.  A dimension line is a dashed line. ___ T  _X_ F

Step 6 -    Answer all exam questions – if you need to, make an educated guess.

Step 7 -    Review your exam:  Make sure ALL questions are answered.  Remember to go back to the skipped questions and erase any unnecessary pencil marks (especially on Scantrons).


Essay Test Strategies

In addition to the steps above:

  1. Pay attention to the key or guide words in the directions.  They will make sure you are on the right track with your answer.

The following guide words and their meanings have been excerpted from page 102 of Enid Leonard’s “What Every Student Should Know About… Study Skills” published by Pearson Longman (2007):

Guide Word Meaning
Analyze Separate into parts and discuss in detail
Compare Explain similarities and differences
Contrast Explain differences only
Define State the definition or meaning
Describe Give as many details as possible; use multi-sensory language
Discuss State pros and cons; use supporting details and examples
Evaluate Give your opinion and support it with reasons, facts, and examples
Explain Give reasons and examples
Illustrate Give examples
Justify Prove: give examples as evidence of your argument
List or Enumerate List information using numbers or a series of items
State Explain briefly and concisely
Summarize Review the main ideas
Trace Follow events in chronological order; give a history from beginning to end
  1. Follow the basic essay structure:  beginning (main idea), middle/body (supporting statements/ideas), and end (conclusion).
  2. Leave out personal opinions unless requested. (Example of personal opinion below in bold) (This is what you should NOT do)




A customer drives in with a white Subaru and says that her four-wheel drive vehicle vibrates while the front axle is engaged.  Technician A says that a bad front axle CV joint could be the cause.  Technician B says different front and rear tire diameters could be the cause.  Who do you agree with? Explain why the other technician is incorrect.

First of all, I don’t think Subarus would have this problem because they are really nice cars and are considered one of the most well-built four-wheel drive vehicles out there. But if it did happen, I would have to agree with Technician

  1. Leave some space in your writing for adding late ideas and for editing your answers.
  2. Proofread/review everything before submitting your exam.
  3. Always use all the time available. If you finish early, go back and add more examples or details and then spend more time editing your answers.