The best students say that one of the things that benefitted them the most in their preparation was taking practice tests. But how exactly does one extract the maximum value from practice tests? Read on to find out.
Simulate real test conditions as precisely as possible
The first and foremost rule of taking practice tests is to simulate test conditions as closely as possible. Preferably take practice tests at the same time as the final test. This helps in mental conditioning and will ensure that your brain performs at peak levels during the final test. Next, choose a quiet place to take the exam. In addition to facilitating higher levels of concentration, this mimics the final exam. Lastly, take breaks as scheduled in the final exam. Several tests have two or more parts to them with small breaks in between. Following this pattern will get your brain acclimatised to switching on and off at the appropriate time.
Take the whole test
Many students make the mistake of not solving the entire practice test. This happens more often when certain sections of the test are easy and a student breezes over these thinking that they will be able to solve them for sure. Now while the student may be able to solve the easier sections, they need to get used to sitting through the entire duration of the exam and building mental stamina. We have often observed that when students solve only parts of practice tests, their brain quickly tiers in the final exam. Don’t make this mistake.
Half the test score improvement will come from practicing tests. The other half will come from painstakingly reviewing each answer and understanding the answer to the questions that that you have solved incorrectly. Further, you should even view the solutions to answers that have been marked correctly by you. At times, the solution may educate you on a method to solve the question that is more efficient that what you have used.
Keep track of your test scores. Pay close attention to the type of questions that you do well on and the type that you need to work on more. Additionally, you may see patterns emerge in terms of the topics that you are particularly good at and those that need work. You also need to think about where it is that you are losing marks. Are you unable to complete the paper because you solve too slowly? Or have you not understood the concepts as well as you should have? Getting answers to these questions takes time. We recommend that for every hour of tests that you take, spend half an hour on tracking and analyses.
Take as many tests as possible
The more tests you take, the better your scores will become. Now this doesn’t mean that you need to take an infinite amount of tests. In fact, you may reach a point where the incremental benefit of taking the next test tends to zero. When this happens, try to figure out whether this is because you need more preparation (conceptual and practice problems) or because you have simply reached the limit of your abilities. More often than not, it’s the first reason. Once you’ve identified this, briefly stop taking tests and work on your course material. Then in a few days, start taking tests again!