The right way to use practice tests for standardized testing

study skills test anxiety
By Liam B.

Though standardized tests are often cast as objective measures of innate knowledge, nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, taking standardized tests is a skill that can be taught. Additionally, how well you perform on test day is not just a function of how much you have learned or studied, but also a function of how consistently you deliver each time you take a practice test. 

Top tip: mimic test day conditions when taking practice tests.

The way to get the most value out of your practice tests is to treat them like the real thing. Though test conditions have changed dramatically since the outbreak of COVID-19, the result of those changes is that taking the test will be very similar to your practice environment! Here are some practice test conditions to follow:

  • Get a full night of restful sleep, and eat a full breakfast when you wake up. 
  • You can laugh, but I swear by this tip: dress in an outfit that makes you feel good. I wore a suit to my LSAT administration, felt great, and scored a 176. 
  • Begin your test at the time you will be taking it on test day. If you don’t know the time, I suggest 9AM or 10AM. 
  • Always take your practice tests at your desk or table in an upright, seated position.
  • Set a timer for the actual time allowed for each section (you can use your phone on "do not disturb"). Draw a line below the last question you did if time runs out before you finish. If you are granted extended time, you should practice under those timing conditions. 
  • Don’t allow yourself any snacks or bathroom breaks until you finish the section you are working on. 
  • If you live with other people, ask them not to disturb you for the duration of the test unless it’s an emergency. 
  • Never check the back of the book (or answer key) for the answer when you’re having trouble on a question.
Score yourself fairly when you are finished. Do not give yourself credit for “almost” picking the right answer, for questions that you “should have” gotten right, or questions that you would have gotten right with more time to think.

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Liam holds a BS from Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. After graduating, he accepted a leadership development role within the healthcare sector of CVS.


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