Study Your Test After You Have Taken It
How To Learn From Incorrect Test Answers
When most people think of studying, they imagine themselves poring over books and notes for hours and days before a big exam. After the exam, many students leave the material they just learned behind them and begin focusing on the next big test. In order to improve performance on future tests, however, students need to study old tests to find patterns in their past performance, and then set goals on how to improve. Check out the top 10 reasons for choosing a wrong answer with some tips on how to improve for the future. Then, use our free download test analysis rubric to analyze future tests and improve your scores.
Reasons for incorrect tests answers and what you can do about it:
- Careless mistakes- Chances are, there were a few questions that you actually knew the answer to, even if you got them wrong! When you look back over your test, you may be kicking yourself for writing down an incorrect answer. The easiest solution for careless mistakes is to always review your entire test before turning it in. If you find yourself running out of time during your tests, skip around instead: answer the simplest questions first, double check all your answers, and only after you check your answers should you move on to the harder questions.
- Did not study the concept- At first glance, this may seem like a no- brainer. Sure, if you did not study a concept, you will probably not be able to answer a question about the concept on the test. Make sure you dig a bit deeper though. Why did you not study the concept? Perhaps you didn’t think it was important, perhaps it bored you, or maybe you didn’t realize you needed to study it for this particular test. Find out the root of the issue to make sure you don’t repeat the same mistake in the future.
- Concept was not in the notes- Some teachers are great at making sure to point out everything that will be covered on the test when they discuss concepts in class. Others make sure to pull test questions directly from your notes. There are a few teachers, however, who may expect you to apply a concept you learned in class or even expect you to do additional research on your own. If this occurs somewhat frequently, it’s worth it to attend tutorials with your teacher. Often, during tutorials, teachers will go into greater detail on what they expect you to know for the test and many times will reference test material since you show an added effort to learn the concepts.
- Did not know how to study the notes- Many students struggle with how to effectively study notes for tests. Take our self study survey (available as a free download) to target your weaknesses and learn where to improve your study skills.
- Knew the concept but forgot, or drew a blank on the test- We all know that feeling- you have an idea at the tip of your tongue but you can’t quite recall it. You know that you understand the concept, but you can’t recall the information you need to answer the question. Typically, this is due to your memory not being “strong enough” to actually be recalled. You can help solve this problem by apply mnemonic techniques while studying: associating sounds, images, or ideas with concepts you are learning. A common example of this is the mnemonic device PEMDAS. Many of us know “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” by heart, and it helps recall the order of operations when calculation problems (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction). Make up your own mnemonic devices when studying.
- Could not apply the concept- You knew the definitions of each concept backwards and forwards. When the test rolled around, however, your teacher may have asked a seemingly unrelated question and expected you to draw a connection to a concept you learned in class. If you simply memorized the concepts without fully understanding them, you could have trouble answering questions on the test. A simple trick when studying a concept is to always ask “why?”. It forces you to delve deeper into the concept. For example: if you are memorizing the fact that eukaryotic cells are more complex than prokaryotic cells, ask “why?” that is the case. The answer? Because eukaryotic cells perform more complex functions than prokaryotic cells, so must have more complex organelles to do so. You can then as “why?” again. Because their physiological organization has evolved to become more specialized and compartmentalized. You can then ask “why?” again- you get the idea! By the end of this exercise you should fully understand any concept you want to learn, and it makes it much easier to apply this concept to an idea asked on the test.
- Did not know how to set up the problem- This is typically related to questions requiring calculations. You may have understood a calculation perfectly in class, but when it came time to set up the problem to solve on your own, you struggled. The best remedy for this is practice, practice, practice. Always make sure to review calculations your teacher performed in class, and then find some new problems to work out on your own. If you struggle, ask for help!
- Did not know how to solve the problem- In this case, you have no problem setting up an equation, but you struggle with actually solving the problems. This could possibly indicate your math skills are a bit weak. While conceptually you understand the process, if you can’t completely solve the problem on the test, you won’t get maximum points. Again, the best remedy is to practice! Being able to differentiate between your struggles with setting up vs. solving the problems will help you tremendously on the test if you can hone in on those weaknesses ahead of time.
- Did not understand the question- Sometimes, after you look over your graded test, you notice that you actually did understand the concept being asked in a certain question, but you misunderstood the question. There’s no harm in clarifying the question during the test, and most times your teacher will explain what the question means. These types of mistakes shouldn’t happen often during your tests. If they do, there could be a larger underlying problem- perhaps you need to brush up on your vocabulary or need to employ the “why?” method of studying to make sense of confusing questions. If you continue to struggle in this area, it’s worth it to bring it up to your teacher for additional guidance.
- Questions were different from what was seen in class- Sometimes the teacher will spend a great deal of time teaching and quizzing a concept one way in class, then throw a completely different type of question at you on the day of the test. This seems to happen most often in tests involving a lot of calculations. If you have noticed this happening on a test or two, enhance your studying by finding some additional questions from the internet, a different textbook, or get your parent or a tutor to help you work through some slightly different problems. This will ensure you understand the concept from a variety of angles. If you continue to have issues on your test, this is a concern that needs to be addressed with your teacher. Always use tutorials to your advantage, and ask for specific help from your teacher on how to practice problems before the tests. You can even ask the teacher to provide you with several additional problems that could better help you prepare for the test. If your teacher understands your concerns and why you are struggling, more often than not you’ll get the additional help you need.
Now that you have a few suggestions on how increase your chances of correctly answering future test questions, download our free test analysis rubric so you can begin analyzing your tests. By tracking your progress over time, you can hone in on your weaknesses and ensure you improve your grade in the future. Happy test taking!
Article written by Shayna L. Pond and Action Potential Learning
Action Potential Learning provides private tutoring in math and science as well as standardized test prep and science and math camps. As math and science specialists, our tutors know and understand difficult math and science concepts and can help you improve your grades and perform on standardized tests.