Archive for November, 2008

Testing Tips

November 6, 2008

Credit goes to Tamim Ansary of MSN.  I decided to paste the entire tips with my commentary in italics.

Okay, so you want to improve your scores. Don’t blush; I know how you feel. You’ve come to the right place: I’ve searched the Internet and talked to teachers and test makers for the very best in test-taking tips and techniques.

I’m going to skip the vanilla tips. Study hard. Get plenty of sleep before the test. Try to relax. Yeah, all that stuff’s important, but you can probably figure it out yourself. Here are a few tips that may not have occurred to you.

  • Study in an environment that is the same or similar to the one in which you will take the test.  Also try to take a practice test in the same room when it is completely quiet.  Mark the time you start and don’t take more than the time you would have on the real test.
  • Wear an unusual scent when you’re studying, and then wear the same scent at the test, because aromas tend to bring back memories. (It doesn’t have to be perfume. Peppermint, chocolate, and ammonia have all been shown to work. But don’t wear too much; you don’t want to bother the other test takers.)  I haven’t tried this yet.  However, I have tried mints/gum because it supposedly stimulates the brain.  My experience: little to no improvement when it comes to mints/gum.
  • Don’t actually cheat, of course, but make up the cheat sheet you would use. It’s a great way to bring the subject into focus.  This definitely works for me.
  • Study in small blocks of time, spaced apart. Three two-hour sessions are better than one six-hour session. (But no, 360 one-minute sessions are not best of all.) I prefer one-hour sessions to two-hour sessionsSome studies say 30-minute sessions are best.  I guess use trial and error and find the time blocks where you retain the most info.
  • Go into the test with a full stomach and an empty bladder. ‘Nuff said.  Eating a mix of carbs and proteins are best.  Carbs are good for the earlier portion of exams and when they’re used up, proteins break down slower so they’ll provide “late energy”. Worst combo: empty stomach and full bladder.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Set a pace and keep to it. First, skim the whole test, divide the number of items by the number of minutes, and calculate how much time you can spend on each item. Mark when you should be getting to the quarter point, halfway point, and three-quarter point by jotting the time in the margin next to that place. Once you start, keep moving. If you can’t answer a question within your budgeted time, put a question mark next to it and move on.  Good advice
  • Prioritize. Answer the easiest questions first, then the ones that give you the most points, then the hard ones.  The only exception is when you know the harder questions will give you more points.  These cases are really rare, I’ve never encountered them.
  • Make sure to answer the power items. About every tenth question on many standardized tests is a so-called power item. If you get that one right, you get credit for the whole block of questions leading up to it. Whereas the nine questions that precede the power question test individual skills, the power item asks you to use a combination of skills. On a map test, for example, a question like “Is Perth (north, south, east, west) of Forth?” is NOT a power item. A question like “The shortest route from Perth to Forth crosses (Smith River, Boyd Mountain, Hologram Hill, None of the above)” probably is. Never leave a power item unanswered, even if you have to guess. This tip is good for standardized tests, but not very applicable for regular college exams.  College tests rarely have such “power items”.
  • Guess. On most standardized tests, only correct answers count. If blank answers count the same as wrong answers, you have nothing to lose by guessing. Suppose every test item has four answer choices. According to the laws of probability, if you guess you will correctly answer 25 percent of the questions on which you are totally clueless. However, there is dumb guessing and smart guessing–and that brings us to the subject of power guessing.

Power guessing for the utterly clueless
Follow these tips to maximize your guessing success on items you know absolutely nothing about.

  • On a true/false test, all other things being equal, pick “true.” (The correct answer on true/false tests is generally “true” more often than it is “false.”)
  • On a true/false item, a long sentence with many parts is more likely to be false.
  • Statements with words such as “never,” “always,” or “every” are more likely to be false. (So few things are “always” or “never” anything.)
  • Statements with words such as “sometimes,” “often,” or “usually” are more likely to be true.
  • On a multiple-choice test, if “all of the above” is a choice and you don’t know the answer, pick “all of the above.”
  • On a math test, if your choices are numbers, throw out the highest and lowest ones. Pick a midrange number.
  • If one answer choice contains quite a bit more information, tilt toward it.
  • On pure guesses, all other things being equal, pick the same option every time. For example, you might always pick C. Why? Because test designers try to randomize their answers and therefore skip around. If you skip around too–with your luck?–you and the correct answer may miss each other every time. If you hold still, however, you get probability working for you.

I also want to add that if you initially chose an answer, don’t second guess and change it later unless you’re 100% sure the new answer is the right one.  Your first choice is usually right.  If the temperature of the test room is unpredictable, you might want to dress in a couple layers.  I like a t-shirt plus hoodie.  That way, you won’t be distracted by sweating or shivering.


I Voted

November 4, 2008

I voted in my first presidential election.  Actually, it was the first time I voted for any government position.  There are a few things I wanted to talk about.  First, my total wait time was surprising. It was zero minutes, there was no line at all.  Once I got my name checked, I was shown a voting station right away.  I guess 3 o’clock in the afternoon is a good time to vote as everyone already voted or is at work.  In class, I heard people talking about the voting line being 3 blocks long.

When I was walking toward the voting center, there were a bunch of people who asked me if I knew who the candidates were for a specific party.  I swear, this happened every 5 seconds.  I just wanted to vote and go home.  I guess I should have expected this.

Also, one actual candidate for mayor and one for school board were there to greet voters.  They just said who they were and thanks for voting.  That definitely left a positive impression on me.  I voted for those peeps.  So yea, all in all, everyone went smoothly.