Students who are preparing for a big exam often spend several hours taking practice tests. They may have a lot riding on their score, such as getting into the school of their dreams or earning a certification for their job.
Practicing test-taking helps you develop mental stamina. It’s similar to how bodybuilders slowly work up to their desired weight.
Improves Your Test-Taking Skills
Practice tests mimic the exam environment, helping students feel more comfortable and confident on test day. They also help identify gaps in knowledge, allowing students to focus their study efforts on areas where they need it the most.
Students who take practice exams often improve their scores. Research shows that even just one practice exam can improve your score, especially if you are able to improve your answers on questions you got wrong.
Take the test under testing conditions: Wake up at the same time you would on the actual exam, wear the same clothes, and eat the same type of breakfast. You can also use the same test-taking strategies that you will employ on the actual exam, like taking regular breaks or using a timer to monitor your progress.
Many standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT, offer official practice tests that closely resemble their actual exams. Taking these official practice tests is an excellent way to simulate the real test-taking experience.
Increases Your Test-Taking Confidence
When you take a practice test under the same testing conditions as the actual exam, it helps your recall of the information later. This is because of a phenomenon known as the “testing effect.”
The other advantage of taking practice tests is that they simulate the testing environment. This makes you feel more prepared for the exam when it comes time to sit down and do it.
Practice tests are also a good way to familiarize yourself with the exam format and structure. You can get a sense of how many questions there are, the type of question (multiple choice or essay), and what the overall length of the exam will be.
Additionally, most practice exams will include regularly scheduled breaks like the ones that are taken during the actual exam. Adding these to your study sessions can help you practice managing your time, which is another crucial skill for effective test-taking. This can help you avoid getting hung up on one difficult question or having to rush the last few questions and miss important information.
Increases Your Test-Taking Efficiency
Studies show that students who use a combination of study tools—such as flashcards and course videos—but also take practice tests, perform better than those who simply reread the material. The reason: Practice testing reinforces the material and improves retention and recall of the information.
Additionally, when a student takes a practice test under exam-like conditions, their brains become more familiar with the material and are therefore more likely to recall it on test day. This is known as the “testing effect”.
To get the most out of practice exams, treat them just like you would a real exam. Wake up at the same time, go through your normal routine, and dress the same. If possible, even try to replicate the environment in which you’ll be taking the actual exam (including any background noise). This will help your mind associate the test-taking experience with the material.
Reduces Your Test-Taking Anxiety
Taking practice tests before an exam is a great way to get a firsthand look at what the actual test will be like. This will give you a more accurate picture of how much you know and help identify areas that need improvement. Taking full-length realistic practice tests can also help reduce your anxiety by normalizing the test-taking experience before the actual exam. It will help you understand what to expect, and will help to remind you that your self-worth does not depend on how well you do on a test.
Getting a little nervous or stressed before a test is actually quite normal – everyone does it! However, if you feel so nervous that you can’t sleep or can’t focus, this is a sign of test anxiety. This can interfere with your ability to recall information and concentrate on answering questions, and it can even lower your test score. Using calming techniques before and during the test, such as deep breathing or counting down, can help reduce your test-taking anxiety.