Studying for tests does not have to be stressful. There are ways to prepare for exams like TOEFL that can be more efficient and effective. Many will probably use practice tests to familiarize themselves with the kinds of questions expected to be on the test. Here are some tips to help you prepare for these kinds of exams.
Preparing for exams more efficiently
The following tips include practical ideas and mental approach to test-taking
Reverse the study process
Very likely, most people you know will go through the practice test by reading the passage, answering the questions, then checking the answers at the back of the book. Some will read the questions first, then read the questions. Either way, most will prepare for exams by “testing” their own knowledge before checking if they have the correct answer or not.
Imagine doing the following instead. First, look at the correct answer at the back of the book. Then read the entire correct answer under the passage. When you read through the passage, look for evidence that support the correct answer.
Then check why the other possible answers are not the correct one.
The purpose of using this reverse process is to understand the thought process of those who wrote the questions. We don’t know how many people wrote the questions. However, there are probably common thought processes that TOEFL or other exams determine to align most with what the tests want to find out.
An example of Reversing the study process
Let’s say you are spending approximately an hour today to study for the Reading section. Find the answers to the passages you are working on at the back of the book, go back to the passage questions and circle the correct answer.
Read the correct answer thoroughly.
Start reading the passage.
Look for ideas, details, evidence that support the correct answer.
Now the correct answer makes sense, right?
When you read the other answers, you can see why they are not the correct ones.
And it’s easy to do it this way, right?
The path of most efficiency
Is this too easy? Aren’t you supposed to be working harder than this when you study? Shouldn’t test preparation require more labor? This way just seems lazy!
Try it and see if it helps you. If it is more effective than other ways, then go with it.
Being efficient means spending the least amount of energy to produce the outcome you want.
That’s how efficient kitchen designs are created. The distance between the refrigerator, the sink, and the stove. You want flow from one to another, minimizing the effort and time it takes to get things done. Same with preparing for tests.
Achieve the desired outcome by selecting the approach that requires the least effort.
If more effort would bring you a better outcome, of course go with that. But if the outcome is the same, wouldn’t it make more sense to choose the shortest route?
What are your beliefs about preparing for exams?
A common feedback from my students when I show them this method is, “Wow! This is so much faster!” Then there would be some comments on “I feel like I am not really studying,” with a tone of guilt.
It would be a good idea to identify your beliefs about preparing for tests. Are they mostly what you were taught to think? If you have friends to discuss this topic, sharing the beliefs you grew up with around this topic could be enlightening. You may find that the information you have today on the topic no longer match the beliefs you grew up with. Do some adjusting around your current beliefs. Bring them up-to-date with what you know today. Past thinking could be strong, but it’s just a habit of thinking. Start a new habit, and your new beliefs would become dominant. The past thoughts would be history.
Experiment with this. Try it and see if you prefer this way of preparing for tests. Let me know how it turns out.
Email me at email@example.com and let me know other topics you would like me to address.
If you find this article helpful, here is another one you might enjoy on the topic of English Fluency Is More Than Just Words.
Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking. To schedule a session with her, please email firstname.lastname@example.org