Tips on Reading and Writing Exams


Exams are often a major source of anxiety for students and teachers alike. Students feel that they literally need to be prepared for everything and anything, because they cannot predict what exactly will be on the test. Teachers stress over whether or not they are crafting questions that students will be able to understand.

Tips on Reading Exams

Before you start taking an examination, read it through. Sometimes the first time that you read a question, you will be extremely overwhelmed by it. However, reading the test thoroughly will give you more time to let the question sink in.

  • Read it through more than once if need be.
  • Read the directions carefully. One test that teachers like to give is a "pop quiz." However, on the top of the pop quiz, the directions say "Read these directions and put your pen down. Do not answer any questions." Most students will go right to the questions without reading the directions at all. A few of their peers will realize the directions, and soon those who did not read will notice that some are not taking the test.
  • Go through the questions slowly. Do not skip words, and do not assume that you know that the question is asking. Make sure that you always read the questions thoroughly. If you provide a wonderful answer, but it is an answer to the wrong question, you are not going to get any points.
  • Watch out for key words. If the question says "all" or "never," and is a true or false question, the answer is most likely false. That being said, there are exceptions to every rule.
  • Look for the most basic meaning. The reason why so many extremely intelligent people do not test well is because they look for deep and hidden meanings of questions.
  • If you have a learning disability or other need which prevents you from taking the test in the required amount of time, speak privately to a teacher or guidance counselor before the exam is administered.

Tips on Writing Exams

For Students

  • As with reading exams, make sure that you are answering the question. If you write a wonderful answer but it does not answer the question, that does not solve anything.
  • Watch for grammar and spelling mistakes. Some teachers will not deduct points for minor errors, and some will. If you have lots of grammer or spelling errors, especially on a language examination or for an English class, chances are you are going to lose points.
  • Use professional language. Do not write in slang, Internet talk, or texting shorthand.
  • Try and keep your handwriting neat. Remember, your teacher has to be able to read it. If he or she does not know what a certain word says, the entire meaning of your answer could be altered.

For Teachers

  • Make sure that questions are clear and concise. Any question that is too wordy or roundabout will only confuse students.
  • Do not use "trick" questions. Students are supposed to be learning. Tricking them into learning is not useful.
  • Vary the types of questions that you are asking. Choose objective questions, short answers, and essays. Doing so will allow each student to display his or her strong point(s).
  • Re-read your examination before you distribute it to students. If you do not understand a question that you wrote, how could your students possibly understand it?

Reading and Writing

Aside from reviewing tips for reading and writing exams, another way to sharpen your skills in such situations is to constantly read and write. Become comfortable with the conventions of standard English, and the way that individuals phrase their words. Practicing a little bit every day will make reading and writing exams come much more easily to you.