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Test-Taking Strategies

 Test taking is a skill apart from learning course material, a skill every student must acquire in order to survive. Test-Taking Strategies is the book for anyone who has ever dreaded an exam. Strategies for taking every kind of test are dealt with—objective tests (multiple choice, true/false, matching), essay tests, and oral exams. The authors also offer help for handling anxiety, explaining relaxation and desensitization techniques that help students control nervousness and keep it from detracting from performance. There are tips for managing time during the test, knowing when to guess, and for pulling answers out of your memory even when the question drew a blank at first glance.

Essay tests and oral exams are particularly gruesome for most students, and until now there has been very little advice for handling such tests. Test-Taking Strategies includes plenty of advice for developing ideas while under pressure.

What the reviewers said:

"Because test results have important consequences, a book like this one could be a life changer....Unabashed shortcutting techniques and 'outsmarting' strategies are given - all of them aboveboard.  The authors cover specific techniques for improving performance on multiple-choice tests, true-false exams, matching question problems, verbal analogy sequences, and short-answer and fill-in-the-blank tests.  Unabashed shortcutting techniques and "outsmarting" strategies are given--all of them aboveboard.  At the outset, the authors describe short-term and long-term cramming techniques and ways to overcome anxiety, both before exams and once test time has arrived.  The advice is very practical and...applicable to test takes from junior high through senior citizen level.... The authors' specific strategies for taking various kinds of tests should help...students approach tests with more confidence."
Library Journal

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An excerpt from Test-Taking Strategies

Verbal Analogy Strategies

Verbal analogies are those sophisticated word problems (cat : dog = seed :           ) found in SATs and other standardized tests. Typically, you are given two words that are somehow related and then told to pick out two other words that are related in the same way. These tests rarely contribute to your grades in courses, but they do determine the courses or schools to which you are admitted.


The best way to become good at doing verbal analogies is to practice. Find copies of similar tests from earlier years that you can work on (if the answers are available). Or work with a book like the one listed in Appendix A.

It's tough to cram for verbal analogy tests. The best results come from practicing for an hour a day for several weeks before the exam. In fact, several months is none too long.


It doesn't matter what relationships you see between words; what counts is what relationship the test-maker sees. Often, the tester's relationship is not as sophisticated as the one you might come up with.

Example: bigotry : hatred

  1. sweetness : bitterness
  2. segregation : integration
  3. equality : government
  4. fanaticism : intolerance

If your first conclusion is, "Bigots hate," you probably end up trying to choose between (c) and (d) since people often equate government with equality and fanatics with intolerance. The trouble with such reasoning is that it's highly subjective; many people don't believe that bigots hate, that governments foster equality, or that fanatics are intolerant.

In the above example, you might instead notice that both bigotry and hatred are forms of social excess or extreme, and thus narrow down your choices to (b) and (d) since both are considered social extremes by many people. However, in (b) the related words are opposites; in the stem, the words are not opposites. If you choose (d) as the correct answer, you're right.


Read the analogy problems as sentences even if they aren't actually written that way. In the example given above, read, "Bigotry relates to hatred in the same way that sweetness relates to bitterness? segregation relates to integration? equality relates to government? fanaticism relates to intolerance?"


You can work faster and more accurately if you pick out a word—or, at times, two or three words—that describes the relationship between the given analogy words. Here are some of the main relationships.
bulletPurpose: A is used for B the same way X is used for Y.
bulletCause and effect: A has an effect on B the same way X has an effect on Y.
bulletPart to whole (or individual to group): A is part of B the same way X is part of Y.
bulletPart to part: A and B are both parts of something the way that X and Y are both parts of something.
bulletAction to object: A is done to B the same way X is done to Y.
bulletObject to action: A does something to B just as X does something to Y.
bulletWord meaning: A means about the same as B. and X means about the same as Y.
bulletOpposite word meaning: A means about the opposite of B, and X means about the opposite of Y.
bulletSequence: A comes before (or after) B just as X comes before (or after) Y.
bulletPlace: A and B are related places just as X and Y are related places.
bulletMagnitude: A is greater than (or less than) B and X is greater than (or less than) Y.
bulletGrammatical: A and B are parts of speech related to each other—noun to noun, adjective to noun, etc.—in the same way that parts of speech X and Y are related to each other.
bulletNumerical: A is numerically related to B in the same way X is related to Y.
bulletCharacteristic: The attributes of A and B are related in the same way as those of X and Y.


If you can't figure out a relationship by looking at the first word and then the second, turn them around. See how the second relates to the first. If you still can't come up with a relationship, look for links between the first word of the given analogy and the first word of each answer. Then look for relationships between the second word of the given analogy and the second word of each answer. By that time the correct answer may become very clear.


As a last resort, eliminate the unlikely answers. For example, if the given analogies are both nouns, you can cross out choices that include a noun and a verb. From the remaining options, let your hunches lead you to a possible right answer.

Since standardized tests are generally organized from easy to tough, if you're near the beginning of an analogy section, think about checking off the least complicated relationship. But, if you're near the end of a particular section, maybe you should mark the most complicated relationship.

If all else fails, if answer (b) hasn't been chosen for a while on your answer sheet, (b) might be a worthwhile choice.

This excerpt is copyrighted. Readers may print one copy for their own use. If you want to print more than one copy of any excerpt, or would like an article on another topic written for publication, email the authors by clicking here.


Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 Judi K-Turkel, Franklynn Peterson, P/K Associates, Inc. 
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