Test-Taking Strategies: GED Test Prep (page 5)
It is time to review techniques that will help you perform well on the GED. This article covers several key strategies for taking standardized tests like the GED. You will learn how to prevent and treat test anxiety, how to approach multiple-choice questions, and how to keep yourself healthy for the exams.
Knowing the material you will be tested on improves your chances of succeeding. But it doesn't guarantee that you will do your best on the test. That's because the GED doesn't just test your knowledge of science, math, social studies, reading, and writing in the English language. Like all standardized tests, it also measures your test-taking skills.
Learn about the Exams
One sure way to increase your chances of test success is to find out as much as you can about the exams. If you don't know what to expect, you won't know how to study. It is likely that you will be extra anxious about the exams, too. The more you know about the exams you are going to take, the better you can prepare—and the more relaxed you will be on test day.
You already know that the GED has five separate exams: Math; Science; Social Studies; Language Arts,Writing; and Language Arts, Reading. You know that most of the questions are multiple choice and that you'll have to write an essay. You know how much time you have to complete each section. But until you look at actual sample questions, you still don't really know what to expect. For example, on the Language Arts, Reading Exam, what kind of passages will you read? What kind of questions will you be asked about those passages?
Getting sample tests and working with skill builders like this book can help you in many ways. You will get used to the kind of questions you will be asked and the level of difficulty of those questions. You will also become familiar with the format and comfortable with the length of the exam.
Handling Test Stress
Test anxiety is like the common cold. Most people suffer from it periodically. It won't kill you, but it can make your life miserable for several days.
Like a cold, test anxiety can be mild or severe. You may just feel an underlying nervousness about the upcoming exam, or you may be nearly paralyzed with worry, especially if there's a lot riding on the exams. Whatever the case, if you have test anxiety, you need to deal with it. Fortunately, there are many strategies to help prevent and treat test anxiety.
The best "cure" for test anxiety is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Test anxiety is often caused by a lack of preparation. If you learn all you can about the test and create and follow a study plan, you should be in good shape when it comes to exam time. Here are some other, more general strategies:
- Establish and stick to routine. Routines help us feel more comfortable and in control. Whenever possible, study at the same time and in the same place. Make your test preparation a habit that's hard to break. Studying for the GED will become easier as it becomes routine. You will be more likely to avoid distractions, and others will know not to disturb you during your GED study time. Set routines for other aspects of your life, too, such as exercise and paying the bills.
- Keep your general stress level low. If there are a lot of other stresses in your life, chances are, a big test will make those other stresses seem more difficult to manage. Remember to keep things in perspective. If something is beyond your control, don't waste your energy worrying about it. Instead, think of how you can handle what is in your control.
- Stay confident. Remind yourself that you are smart and capable. You can take these exams—and you can do well on them. Remember, you know more today than you did yesterday.
- Stay healthy. When your body is run down or ill, your brainpower will suffer, too. And you are much more likely to be overtaken by worries. Take care of yourself throughout the test-preparation process.
If it's too late to prevent test anxiety, don't panic. You can still treat it effectively. Here are some strategies to help reduce test stress:
- Face your fears. Admit that you are worried about the exam and examine the reasons why. Your fears won't change the fact that you have to take it, but they can paralyze you and keep you from studying and doing well on the exam. Acknowledge your fears, put them in perspective, and refuse to let your fears hurt you.
- Keep things in perspective. Yes, the GED is a big deal. But even if you don't pass the exams, is it the end of the world? Will your family stop loving you? Will you be less of a person? Of course not. And you can always take the exams again later. Perspective is very important to performance. Of course you should be serious about succeeding. But don't lose sight of other important aspects of your life.
- Be sufficiently prepared. Anxiety often comes from feeling insecure in a new situation. But if you prepare well, using this and other books, the GED will not be new to you. And if you follow your study plan, you will know how to answer the questions you will face on the exams. If you have fallen behind, remember that it's not too late to catch up.
- Stop making excuses. Excuses may give you some comfort in the short term, but they don't take away test anxiety—and they won't help you do well on the exams. In fact, excuses often make things worse by making you feel guilty and powerless. Don't let yourself feel like a victim. You may have a lot of things going on in your life and many things may interfere with your studies, but you have the power to choose how you deal with your circumstances.
- Imagine yourself succeeding. Highly successful people will often tell you that one of their secrets is visualization. In their mind's eyes, they see themselves succeeding. They imagine the situations they will face, and they imagine themselves handling those situations beautifully.
- Stick to your study plan. Test anxiety can paralyze you if you let it. And before you know it, you have missed several deadlines on your study plan. Guess what? That will only make your test anxiety worse. As soon as you feel your stomach start to flutter with test anxiety, go back to your study plan. Make an extra effort to stick to your schedule.
One very helpful strategy is to write your fears down. When you put your worries on paper, they often seem more manageable than when they are bouncing around in your brain and keeping you up at night. Once you write down your fears, you can then brainstorm solutions. For example, imagine you are worried about not being able to find enough time to get your work done and finish studying. Once you put this fear down on paper, you can begin to figure out how to squeeze in the hours you will need to get everything done. And you will feel more in control.
Visualization is a very powerful tool. It's a way of telling yourself that you believe you can do it. The power of this kind of belief is staggering. If you believe you can accomplish something, you are far more likely to accomplish it. Likewise, if you believe you can't do something, you are far more likely to fail to achieve that goal. Positive visualization will make it easier for you to study and manage your entire test-preparation process.
Anyone can use the power of visualization. Picture yourself sitting calmly through the exam, answering one question after another correctly. See yourself getting excellent test results in the mail. Imagine yourself telling family and friends how well you did on the exams. Picture yourself receiving the college acceptance letter or job offer you desire.
It's difficult to do your best on a test when you are not feeling well. Your mind and body need to be in good shape for the exam. If you let your body get run down, you may become ill. That, in turn, will set you back on your study schedule. And that may lead to test anxiety, which can make you feel run down again. This is a downward spiral you need to avoid. If you do feel run down, take a day or two to rest and feel better. Maybe you will be two days behind your study schedule, but when you continue, your studying will be more effective. As long as it's not a constant problem for you and as long as you are not using illness to avoid studying, you will do yourself a favor by resting.
Take good care of yourself throughout the entire test-preparation process and especially in the week before the exam. Here are some specific suggestions for staying healthy:
- Get enough rest. Some of us need eight or more hours of sleep each night. Others are happy with just five or six. You know what your body needs for you to feel clearheaded and energized. Make sleep a priority so that you are able to concentrate on the day of the exams. If you have trouble sleeping, try one of the following strategies:
- Get extra exercise during the day. A tired body will demand more sleep.
- Get up and study. If you study in the night when you can't sleep, you can cut out study time from the next day so you can take a nap or get to bed earlier. (Of course, sometimes studying will help you fall asleep in the first place.)
- Relax with a hot bath, a good book, or sleepinducing foods. A glass of warm milk, for example, may help you fall back asleep.
- Do some gentle stretching or seated forward bends. Try to touch your toes with your legs outstretched. This posture stretches tense muscles, improves circulation, and helps relax the whole body. Or, practice a few simple relaxation poses from yoga: child's pose, corpse pose, or cat stretch (see www.yoga.com for details).
- Spend a few minutes deep breathing. Fill your lungs slowly and completely. Hold your breath for a few seconds and then release slowly and completely. You can practice deep breathing any time you need to relax or regain focus.
- Write down your worries. Again, putting your fears on paper can help make them more manageable.
- Eat well. Keeping a healthy diet is often as hard as getting enough rest when you are busy preparing for a test. But how you eat can have a tremendous impact on how you study and how you perform on the exams. You may think you are saving time by eating fast food instead of cooking a healthy meal. But in reality, you are depriving your body of the nutrition it needs to be at its best. You may think that a couple of extra cups of coffee a day are a good thing because you can stay up later and study. But in reality, you are "tricking" your brain into thinking that it's awake and making yourself more dependent on caffeine.
- Get exercise. You hardly have the time to study, so how can you find the time to exercise? As difficult as it may be, it's important to squeeze exercise into your busy schedule. Even light exercise, such as a brisk walk to the store, can dramatically improve your brainpower. For one thing, exercising can help you clear your head, especially if you are preoccupied with many things and need to get focused on your work. For another, if you exercise, you will have more energy during the day and sleep better at night. That means all your study time will be more productive. In addition, your exercise time can actually double as study time. For example, you can review material while you are riding an exercise bike. You can compose an essay in your head as you race-walk around the park. If you exercise with a friend who is also studying for the GED, you can quiz each other on exam material. And here's another bonus: Exercise helps relieve stress. So, especially if you are dealing with test anxiety, make exercise a priority.
Foods to avoid—especially at test time—include high-sugar, high-calorie, low-nutrition foods, such as doughnuts, chips, and cookies. Instead, find healthy substitutes such as the following:
Multiple-Choice Test Strategies
Multiple choice is the most popular question format for standardized tests like the GED and understandably so: Multiple-choice questions are easy and fast to grade. They are also popular because they are generally considered objective: They are questions based solely on information and don't allow the test taker to express opinions.
Multiple-choice questions have three parts:
- Stem: the question
- Options: the answer choices
- Distracters: the incorrect answer choices
Here's an example:
- Stem: The narrator knew her mother was lying because
- her mother was acting strangely.
- what her mother said goes against her mother's character.
- her mother was always lying.
- she has ESP (extrasensory perception).
In this question, the correct answer is b. The other options are all distracters.
Here are some strategies to help you answer multiple-choice questions correctly:
- Identify key words in the stem. These are the words that help you search for the correct answer. For example, in the stem:
- Immediately eliminate all answers you know are incorrect. This will help you find the correct answer. It is an especially important step if you have to guess at the answer.
- Beware of distracter techniques. Test developers will often put in look-alike options, easily confused options, and silly options. For example, in the question about the narrator's mother, choice a may be true according to the passage, but it may be that the narrator's mother often acts strangely, or that there's another reason that she is acting in this way. A careful reading of the story would show that what the mother said contradicts her usual values. Choice d is the silliest option and is the one you should probably eliminate first.
- Read stems carefully to be sure you understand exactly what is being asked. Watch for tricky wording such as "All of the following are true EXCEPT. "You will find distracters that are accurate and may sound right but do not apply to that stem. For example, if you don't notice the "except" on the clinical depression question stem, you might choose a distracter that is a symptom of clinical depression. The answer would be accurate but wrong because you did not read the question carefully.
- Beware of absolutes. Carefully read any stem that includes words like always, never, none, or all. An answer may sound perfectly correct and the general principle may be correct. However, it may not be true in all circumstances.
Clinically depressed patients have all of the following symptoms EXCEPT
the key words are "clinically depressed," "symptoms," and "except." You need to look in the passage for the symptoms of clinical depression. And you need to find the answer that is not specifically mentioned in the passage.
Almost There: Strategies for the Final Days before the Exams
Your months of preparation will soon pay off. You have worked hard, and the exams are just a week or two away. Here are some tips for making sure things go smoothly in the homestretch.
The week before the exams:
- Be sure you know exactly where you are taking the exams. Get detailed directions. Take a practice drive so you know exactly how long it will take you to get there.
- Review everything you have learned.
- Get quality sleep each night.
- Practice visualization—see yourself performing well on the GED.
The day before the exams:
- Get to bed early.
- Get light exercise. Don't work out too hard. You don't want to be sore or physically exhausted the day of the exams.
- Get everything you will need ready: pencils/pens, admission materials/documentation, any mints or snacks you would like to bring along.
- Make a list of everything you need to bring so you don't forget anything in the morning.
The day of the exams:
- Get up early. Make sure you set your alarm. Ask a family member or friend to make sure you are up on time.
- Eat a light, healthy breakfast, such as yogurt and granola or a low-fat, low-sugar cereal and fruit.
- Dress comfortably. Wear layers so that you can take off a shirt or sweater if you are too warm in the test room.
- Don't drastically alter your diet. For example, if you drink coffee every morning, don't skip it—you could get a headache. However, don't go for that second cup or super-sized portion. Too much caffeine can make you jittery during the exams, and you can "crash" when the caffeine wears off.
At the test site:
- Chat with others, but not about the exams. That might only make you more nervous.
- Think positively. Remember, you are prepared.
- Avoid squeezing in a last-minute review. Instead, visualize your success and plan your reward for when the tests are over.
- Make sure you read and understand all directions clearly. How should you fill out the answer sheet? What should you do if you want to change an answer? What is the time limit? What if you have technical difficulties during the exams? Don't hesitate to ask questions about anything that is unclear.
After the tests:
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