By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
I’m going to share a test-taking tip that can lower your testing anxiety and increase your test grades. That might sound too good to be true, but if you do it right, it is very true.
I call this test-taking tip the 60-Second Test-Taking Strategy. I thought about naming it something catchier like The First Minute, but clearly, I did not.
What is the 60-Second Test-Taking Strategy?
This is a test-taking strategy that you use in the first minute after sitting down to take a test. Sometimes you will need a little more or less than one minute, depending on the material you’re being tested on.
How does the 60-Second Test-Taking Strategy work?
This test-taking tip reduces the amount of information you need to hold in your working memory while you take your test. It’s a strategy that allows you to focus on answering the test questions, rather than holding onto certain types of reference information. It can also lower test-related anxiety.
How to do the 60-Second Test-Taking Strategy
Generally speaking, here’s how this strategy works: You use the first 60 seconds of your testing time to immediately dump as much reference information from your head onto a scrap piece of paper, the back of the test, or somewhere in the margins. Once this information is written on paper, you no longer have to stress about remembering it, and you can now refer to the information in order to answer the test questions.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the 60-Second Test-Taking Strategy:
- Fully prepare for your test using active recall, spaced repetition, and other legitimate study skills. The 60-Second Test-Taking Strategy is not a replacement for studying.
- As you’re studying, create a one-page reference sheet of all the reference material that you will have to know and use on your test. You can also create this cheat sheet throughout your unit, using these step-by-step instructions. Reference material is information that you can refer to, to answer or solve test questions. It includes:
- Math formulas
- Science formulas
- Foreign language conjugations/ending (such as the subjunctive AR and ER/IR endings in Spanish)
- Mnemonic devices you created to remember steps or sequences (such as PEMDAS for order of operations, or Luigi Makes Mango Juice Very Sweet Daily to remember the days of the week in French)
- Sequences (such as the steps of the scientific method)
- Around 10 minutes before your test, review your one-page reference sheet. Your goal is to refresh the information so that it’s accessible from your short-term memory when the test begins.
- During the first 60 seconds (or more, if needed) of your exam, “download” the reference material from your brain onto your test.
- During the test, refer to the information you “downloaded” to answer questions and solve problems.
What types of tests does the 60-Second Test-Taking Strategy work on?
The 60-Second Test-Taking Strategy works on any test that requires you to use information to solve problems or answer questions. Said another way, the strategy works on tests with questions that can be more easily answered with reference material.
Another tip for using the 60-Second Test-Taking Strategy
Another helpful way to use this test-taking tip is to use the first 60 seconds to “download” ANY material you have a fear of forgetting. So, instead of writing down just reference material, quickly jot down facts, details, and other content that you are afraid you might forget during the test. Once it’s out of your head, you can relax, knowing that it will be there if you need it to answer any test questions.