3 Steps to Ace Your Next Test

Graded test on desk with a stamp saying "passed."

HarinathR / Pixabay

We sometimes spend so much time using flashcards and memorizing terms that we don't get around to really gaining a deep understanding of the material we're supposed to be learning. The fact is, many students don't realize that there is a difference between memorizing and learning.

Making the Grade

Memorizing terms and definitions may help you prepare for some types of tests, but as you advance into higher grades, you'll find that teachers (and professors) expect a lot more from you on test day. You may go from providing definitions to words in middle school, for example, to more advanced types of responses — like long answer essays when you reach high school and college. For those more complex question and answer types, you'll need to be able to put your new terms and phrases in context.

There is a way to know if you're really ready for any test question the teacher can throw at you. This strategy is designed to help you take the knowledge you've gained about a subject and explain it in context You can learn this strategy in three steps.

  1. First, develop a list of all the terms (new words) and concepts contained in your material. 
  2. Find a way to randomly pick two of these terms. For example, you could use index cards or scraps of paper to write the term on one side, place them face-down, and select two different cards. The strategy works best if you actually manage to pick two (seemingly) unrelated words.
  3. Now that you have two unrelated terms or concepts, your challenge is to write a paragraph (or several) to show the connection between the two. It may seem impossible at first, but it is not!

Remember that any two terms from the same class will be related. You just have to create a path from one to the other to show how the topics are related. You can't possibly do this unless you really know the material.

Tips for Passing Your Test

  • Repeat the process of selecting random terms until you've done several different combinations of terms.
  • Every time you write your paragraph(s) to connect the terms, use as many other terms as you can. You will begin to build a web of knowledge and begin to understand how everything relates to everything else in your notes.
  • Once you've studied this way, follow up with a friend a day or two later. Use a study partner and write up practice essay questions and exchange them. Make sure that each answer contains at least two of the terms you've practiced.
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Your Citation
Fleming, Grace. "3 Steps to Ace Your Next Test." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2020, thoughtco.com/steps-to-ace-your-test-1857456. Fleming, Grace. (2020, August 29). 3 Steps to Ace Your Next Test. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/steps-to-ace-your-test-1857456 Fleming, Grace. "3 Steps to Ace Your Next Test." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/steps-to-ace-your-test-1857456 (accessed March 23, 2023).