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.

Looking for support for your journey with standardized testing?
Contact us!

Three Ways to Build Good Vocab Habits for Standardized Tests

7 Essential Tips for ANY Standardized Test

How to Study Efficiently for Hours On End (With the Help of a Tomato)


academics study skills MCAT medical school admissions SAT expository writing college admissions English MD/PhD admissions GRE GMAT LSAT chemistry writing strategy math physics ACT biology language learning test anxiety graduate admissions law school admissions MBA admissions interview prep homework help creative writing AP exams MD study schedules summer activities history personal statements academic advice career advice premed philosophy secondary applications Common Application computer science organic chemistry ESL PSAT economics grammar test prep admissions coaching law statistics & probability supplements psychology SSAT covid-19 legal studies 1L CARS logic games reading comprehension Spanish USMLE calculus dental admissions parents research Latin engineering verbal reasoning DAT excel mathematics political science French Linguistics Tutoring Approaches chinese DO MBA coursework Social Advocacy academic integrity case coaching classics diversity statement genetics geometry kinematics medical school skills IB exams ISEE MD/PhD programs PhD admissions algebra astrophysics athletics biochemistry business business skills careers data science letters of recommendation mental health mentorship quantitative reasoning social sciences software engineering trigonometry work and activities 2L 3L Academic Interest Anki EMT English literature FlexMed Fourier Series Greek Italian Pythagorean Theorem STEM Sentence Correction Zoom algorithms amino acids analysis essay architecture argumentative writing art history artificial intelligence cantonese capacitors capital markets cell biology central limit theorem chemical engineering chromatography climate change clinical experience cold emails community service constitutional law curriculum dental school distance learning enrichment european history finance first generation student fun facts functions gap year harmonics health policy history of medicine history of science information sessions institutional actions integrated reasoning intern international students internships investing investment banking logic mandarin chinese mba meiosis mitosis music music theory neurology operating systems phrase structure rules plagiarism poetry pre-dental presentations proofs pseudocode school selection simple linear regression sociology software study abroad teaching tech industry transfer typology units virtual interviews writing circles