Testing Strategies

Recommendations for Excelsior College exam takers.

Know the parts of a test question and how to read them. Multiple-choice questions consist of three sections:

  • a background scenario
  • a stem
  • a list of options

The stem may contain descriptive information such as a situation or scenario, or it may simply be a direct question.

Read the question carefully before looking at the options; identify key words in the stem. Read each word in the stem carefully. Know what the question is asking and looking for. Look for key words such as: 

  • except
  • first
  • primary
  • initial
  • early
  • most important

If you find the list of options distracting, put your hand over them on the computer screen and think of an answer first; then see if your answer is listed. Chances are it is the correct one.

Identify the theme of the stem; don't assume information that is not given. Confine your thinking to the information presented and don't add to it. If it appears to be simple or common sense, then assume it is simple. Don't look for a hidden meaning.

Know the basic principles of the exam.

Analyze your test-taking behaviors, then establish strategies to correct problem(s), if any.

Manage your time effectively during test-taking. Allow one minute per item. Maintain your concentration. Other test takers will be at the testing site and they may not be taking the same exam you are taking—do not compare yourself to them!

Do not change answers without good reason or sound rationale.

Choose options that are within the realm of the subject. Watch for distracters!

In addition to the rules above, you don't just need to know the content of the exam—you need to know how to take a test!

Suggestion: Take an Excelsior College Practice Exam, which will allow you to sample the types of questions you may encounter on an actual for-credit exam at a Prometric Testing Center®. The practice exams include questions; modeled after items presented on actual Excelsior College Examinations.

Test Anxiety, Retrieved August 19, 2005 from Indiana University Web site: http://www.indiana.edu/
Felder, R. M., Stice, J. E. Tips on Test Taking Retrieved August 15, 2005, from http://www.ncsu.edu/felder-public/Papers/testtaking.htm

Testing Tips

Keep these in mind when preparing for your test:

  • Design a study plan—essential for learning the material.
  • Stay organized—go through material to be covered on the test methodically.
  • Break information into sections—master the material in one section before moving on to the next section.
  • Do not cram—this will only confuse you in the long run.
  • Take frequent study breaks.
  • Contact your instructor to ask questions on material you do not understand.
  • Spend extra time on material you do not have a good understanding of.
  • Eat right and don’t skip meals. It is a good idea to eat something just before you take the test to keep your energy level up.
  • Make sure you are well rested before the exam.
  • Review all the material included on the test.
  • Keep a positive, confident outlook.
  • Consider the weight of questions that you answer—it may be a good idea to start with the questions that are worth more points so you have more time to spend formulating your response.