PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Test Stress: Know What's Coming

Taking a test can be a little like watching a scary movie.

Let's say that the first time you see the monster jump out of the darkness, it scares you so much you nearly jump out of your seat! But if you see the movie a second time, you're not scared-because you already know what's coming. In the same way, if you know what to expect from an upcoming test, you're less likely to be nervous about it and more likely to be cool, calm, and collected. Here are some questions to ask your teacher:

What material will be covered?
Make sure you know exactly what knowledge, skills, and material the test will cover. When you're reviewing and studying in the days leading up to the test, you'll want to concentrate only on those things that will be on it.

Will the test be "limited" or "comprehensive"?

  • A limited test covers only one specific unit or area, or only things that you've learned since the last major test. For example: If your science class has been studying plant cells for the past two weeks, a limited test might cover only what you've learned about plant cells. Teachers sometimes call these tests "unit tests," because they cover one particular unit. Or if the test covers one chapter of your textbook, it might be called a "chapter test."

  • A comprehensive test usually covers a much larger range of material, and might even cover everything that you've learned up to the point of the test. For example: Your science class has just spent two weeks studying plant cells, and your teacher announces that there will soon be a comprehensive test. This means that there will be questions about plant cells, but also questions about all the other units you covered from the beginning of the school year, like animal cells and single-celled life. You've got to make sure you know ALL the material, not just the most recent stuff.

What will the format be?
Test questions come in lots of formats, including:

  • Multiple choice
  • True or False
  • Fill-in-the-blank
  • Short answer
  • Essay

Make sure you know the test format before you sit down to take it, so there'll be no surprises.

What's allowed in the test room?
For most tests, all you're allowed to bring with you are yourself (especially your brain!) and a pencil or pen. But you might have some tests with special rules that let you bring in, for example, a calculator or textbook. Make sure you know exactly what you can and can't have with you when you take the test.

Can we see old versions of the test?
One of the best ways to take some of the mystery out of an upcoming test is to practice on similar tests. If you're getting ready for a standardized test, your teacher might be able to let you practice on old versions of the test, or at least workbooks that contain questions in the same format. Once you're totally familiar with what the questions look and sound like, you'll feel a lot more confident and a lot less stressed.

Remember: Sometimes there's a fine line between preparing for a test and cheating. Preparing does NOT mean making "cheat sheets" or getting an old copy of a test without your teacher's permission. If you're not sure what counts as cheating and what doesn't, check out IML's advice on Cheating.

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