Test Preparation Tips

Tips for Taking Standardized Exams

By Dan Burrows

To help you with taking standardized exams such as ASQ Certification exams, here are some tips that I learned a long time ago that have helped me.  There may be cultural differences between the USA and other countries that would invalidate some of these.  If anything that I included goes against what the specific examination authority recommends for test taking rules or strategy, go with their recommendations.

  1. Prepare to take the exam but do not over-prepare.  Break up the preparation for the exam into sections (such as QCI Primer sections) for the several weeks before the exam to pace yourself.  Reserve the last week before the exam for skimming over the entire study materials to refresh your memory.  Do not study all night before the exam because that will just wear you out and you will not be sharp for the day of the exam.
  2. If the exam allows the use of reference materials, mark up the materials using very visible tabs and post-its so that it is easy to go to the right sections in the reference materials.  Do not take in a huge stack of reference materials because you will not be able to search through all of that – usually the QCI Primer is the only reference that you will need and maybe a couple other references that you find useful.
  3. Organize your “exam taking kit” a few days before the exam so that you do not forget anything that you will need such as reference materials, extra pencils and erasers, snacks and drinks, chewing gum, a jacket or sweater, and good luck charms.
  4. Dress in your favorite comfortable clothes for the exam.  The more comfortable you are, the more relaxed you will be, and the better you will do.  It is good to dress in layers or bring a jacket or sweater in case the temperature of the exam room is too cold or too hot.
  5. If the exam location allows it, bring snacks and drinks to help keep your energy level up during long exams.  Do not consume too much sugar or caffeine so that you are not too jittery.  Some people concentrate better when they chew gum.
  6. Relax and take deep breaths if you find yourself getting nervous.  Breathe in a deep breath and hold it for ten seconds and then breathe out.  Practice that since you do not want to hold your breath for too long and pass out or cause yourself to hyperventilate.
  7. If the exam sections are more than 1/2 hour each, stand up and stretch or shift positions in your chair to keep from getting stiff and uncomfortable.
  8. Do not get frustrated if you do not know the answer to a question.  The exam is designed such that nobody knows the answers to all of it or can finish all of it.  Relax and move on to the next question.
  9. Do not spend too much time on one question.  First answer the questions where the answer comes to you quickly and then go back to the tougher questions.
  10. When you go through the questions booklet, cross out the question numbers that you answered right away so that you don’t repeat going over them when you go back to the tougher questions.  For the tougher questions, that you do pass up the first time through, mark them with some sort of rating such as an ”X” for tough questions and a “XX” for really tough questions so that you can prioritize the questions to go back to and save the toughest for last.
  11. If the exam is scored on how many questions that you get right without penalty for getting questions wrong, then guess on the questions that you do not know the answer to.  If the exam takes off points for getting questions wrong, then only guess where you can reduce the possible answers to two or three.
  12. Often with true/false questions, the short questions are typically false since it takes more words to tell the complete truth than to state a falsehood.
  13. If the exam has multiple choice answers such as a, b, c, or d, when guessing select b or c whichever is longer.  This combines the tendency for the longest answer to be the truthful one and the tendency for exam writers to put the correct answer in the middle of the choices.
  14. Often with ASQ exams, there are questions about proper policies and practices.  Answer those as if you are the type of person who goes completely “by the book” since that is how ASQ likes people to behave.  In the real world, things are not as “by the book” or as “black and white” as ASQ thinks they are.
  15. If the exam location is at a place that you are not familiar with, go to the exam location a few days before the exam to familiarize yourself with how to get there so that you are not late the day of the exam.
  16. If the exam location is far away from where you live, consider staying at a hotel close to the exam site so that you do not tire yourself out just getting to the exam.  Some people do not sleep well in hotel rooms, so if this would be a problem for you, disregard this recommendation.  If you do stay at a hotel the night before, do not forget your “exam taking kit”.
  17. Try to get to the exam a little early so that you can pick out the best location that will be the most comfortable for you.
  18. Do not over-prepare on the recommendations that I have listed here.  These are just recommendations that I have found to be helpful but other people have their own ways of preparing for exams.