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It’s well-known that the way you perform on a test does not necessarily reflect your intelligence or aptitude. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the mainstream educational system is likely to change their testing habit any time soon. So even though you may not agree with the philosophy of test taking, you’ll still need to do well on them if you want high grades. Some people are simply poor test-takers. If you’re one of those people, never fear; there are strategies you can use to maximize your test-taking potential.

Mimic familiar surroundings.

It may seem odd, but similarity helps the brain recall items that it otherwise would have more difficulty recalling. What this means is that you should try to make your test feel as much as possible like a class or study session. If you wore nice clothes to class every day, don’t wear pajamas to your test. If you always sit in the same seat, try to put yourself there during your testing hour. It seems strange, but it works.

Make sure you’re in top condition.

We think of the mental and physical aspects of ourselves as different things. Sometimes we forget that the brain is a physical part of our bodies. If it doesn’t have the things it needs, it won’t be able to function optimally. Get a good night’s sleep the night before your test, and be sure to eat a nutritious breakfast that will keep your synapses firing.

Give yourself lots of time.

Waking up ten minutes before class may have worked for you during the semester, but on testing day give yourself a little bit of extra time. If you feel rushed and stressed before your test, your brain won’t be in the best state to concentrate on the test. Instead it will still be frazzled. Get up forty-five minutes early on test day. Take a nice shower, eat a good breakfast, and leave with enough time to run through your flashcards or notes once or twice before your test starts.

Be prepared!

It’s obvious, but it needs to be said. Don’t start preparing for a test three days beforehand (or worse, the night beforehand). That’s an easy recipe for test stress. Study little by little throughout the semester, and when testing day finally rolls around you’ll have nothing to worry about. Being prepared also means double checking the morning of the test to make sure you have all the materials you may need. Check your syllabus to make sure all homework assignments are in, and run through your email inbox to make sure you didn’t miss a note from your professor giving you info on what’s expected of you.

Nobody likes taking tests. Hopefully in the future the education system will come up with a more effective way of finding out how much a student has learned. But until then, follow these tips to make sure you take the best test possible.