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How to Pass Any Exam or Every Test with Just Four Steps or Techniques

How to Prepare for Any Exam--Even if You're Nervous

There's a lot that goes into preparing for a test. You might feel prepared as far as the material goes, but you may be as nervous as you can be. I've known people who don't do their best because of nerves. That's a shame. If there was a way you could study to help you alleviate those nerves, would you do it?

Sure, if you have an issue with pre-test anxiety, you probably would try different study methods to help lessen those anxious feelings. Knowing your material as well as you think you ever could does a lot in lowering the anxiety level. It does wonders for your mental status. Believe me, I know.

I have taken lots of tests in my life--as an undergraduate in college, as a graduate student, and later in my professional career. My final exam for my master's degree in English literature was a comprehensive oral exam covering the history of the written language from Beowulf to present. Yes, the entire history of written literature. Talk about nervous! I didn't even have an undergraduate degree in English and thus had a lot of catching up to do.

I've taken licensing exams in social work and nursing home administration, the latter of which was one of the most challenging exams I've ever had to take. I was working full-time and studying at night. For about six months, I studied using the four-step method that I had come up with in graduate school.

I'll explain my four-step process: read, write, speak, and listen. Sound pretty basic? Well, it really is, but you have to follow every step. Using this method of studying will help you to mentally prepare yourself to take any exam.

Step #1: Read the material

Reading the material is the common sense way to start studying. Read through all the materials you have to study. In my case, as a graduate student, I read books, plays, short stories, and poetry--reading and reviewing the whole history of literature over the course of two years of my graduate program. I was continually reading, as I had to complete the massive amount of required items on our reading list. I even posted in my house huge sheets of papers with time lines and time periods I needed to learn. These visual reminders were spread throughout my house.

In studying for the exam to be a nursing home administrator, I read any material that I could get my hands on relating to the requirements. I studied the history of personnel and management; the ins and outs of accounting, finance, and budgeting; and state and federal regulations regarding nursing homes. I had volumes of books and study guides to read.

Whether you're studying for a straight-forward chapter test or for an intensive exam where your career is on the line, this four-step study method can help give you confidence and ensure your success.

So, now that you've read all the study material, what's next?

I have filled hundreds of note cards over the years to study for tests.

I have filled hundreds of note cards over the years to study for tests.

Step #2: Write it down

After reading comes writing. Write it down! You can write in various ways. As you read over your study materials--either the first time or when you review it again--annotate the documents. This just means to underline key passages and make a few notes in the margins to summarize the important stuff. These handwritten notes will draw your attention to what's important every time you review the material. Consider going through the first time and annotating with a certain colored pen or pencil. With your second read-through, use a different color to make notes or mark through old notes. With review comes clarity, and you may want to change your notes to reflect your learning. You will be able to keep up with how your thoughts and knowledge about the material have progressed.

Another way to reinforce the information in your brain is to make note cards with the information. Put a question or definition on one side of the card with the answer on the other. These are great for reviewing, either by yourself or with a study partner. Although it takes time to write up all the note cards for study, the act of writing down information you need to know will further imprint the knowledge onto your memory.

Step #3: Speak the material aloud

You've read and written the material. Now, speak the information aloud to further learn the material. I spoke my information aloud by quizzing myself with the note cards.The facts came out my mouth and into my ears--dual learning there. I would often read my study info out loud while pacing around the house. Does pacing help? I'm not sure, but it seemed to help me further "step" the data into my brain.

Also, on major tests such as my Master's exam or licensing exam, I spoke everything from my study materials into a recorder, which leads into the fourth step of listening.

Step #4: Listen to it!

So how do you listen to the material that you've now read, written, and voiced? I would listen to my recordings whenever I could--while I was cleaning house, driving, and even mowing. Often for home studying, I would read, write, and speak the material. On the road, I would listen. With all of these different learning methods inundating my mind with the study material, my brain had no choice but to learn the stuff, which was a great way to alleviate test anxiety. By the time I finally took the exam, I was confident--although nervous--that I would pass it. This feeling was a huge turn-around from the scattered thoughts and sickening nerves that had encompassed me in the beginning.

Try my four-step study method

Now you have the four-step method that I've learned over time. These techniques help not only in learning the material that must be studied, but they also help to lower the anxiety level. After studying in this manner, engaging all the senses, I have felt confident that I would do well on any test. After using the four-step method, you may feel, as I have, that you haven't crammed for a test but have actually learned the material. It's in your head and ready to come out on that exam.

Try this method. See if it works for you, too.



Suzie from Carson City on April 12, 2019:

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Hey Vee! So good to see you, girlfriend. I've missed you. Chances of me needing to take any exam for any reason are mighty slim. However, I'm sending this great article to my student grandchildren (of which I have many! LOL) They're all exceptionally successful students ( of course.) and will welcome any tips offered.

Now...perhaps I'll face an "Interrogation?" Who knows? I CAN be a trouble-maker......any tips from you on how to handle interrogations?? I promise, I won't mention your name......Love, Paula

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on April 11, 2019:

Thanks, Edward! It's great to know that these techniques work for you, too!

Edward G Gordon from Northern Ireland on April 09, 2019:

Good article. I've used some of these techniques and they work well for me. I also use dispersed and interleaved study as part of my study routine. I find that to be a big help as well.

Keep up the good work.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 20, 2017:

Monica, these strategies have always worked for me. I have done well on nearly every test I've taken. Best of luck to you!

Monica on July 05, 2017:

I'm going to try your tips, Victoria. I just took a real estate exam and failed. All I did was, read, took notes and take the online test taker. I guess that wasn't good enough.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 23, 2012:

nanderson500--It does for sure! Thanks for reading and voting!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 23, 2012:

jainismus--Thanks for reading and commenting. These tips have proved to be very useful to me.

nanderson500 from Seattle, WA on August 22, 2012:

Nice job, with all these different strategies the info will stick in your brain for sure! Voted up.

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on August 22, 2012:

Great tips. This method is very useful, thanks for sharing.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 22, 2012:

manicpanicplease--This method can't help but help! :-)

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 21, 2012:

mmsu--It works! Try it if you have a big test coming up!

L Brander from Canada on August 21, 2012:

Great hub! I'll totally be using this for my classes. This method will really cement the course materiel into my brain. Thanks so much for the tips!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 21, 2012:

Julie--Studying like this has gotten me through some tough exams. Thanks for reading!

mmsu from Pakistan on August 21, 2012:

My sister uses exactly the same method and she often urges me to follow it!!Great hub!!

Blurter of Indiscretions from Clinton CT on August 21, 2012:

Oh, how I wish I had this handy article in college!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on August 21, 2012:

CC, these techniques worked for me. The recording helps in so many ways, and I could listen to it over and over. Yes, for two years, I read, took notes on what I read, listened to stuff, taught comp classes as a grad asst, threw some great grad school parties and drank beer at beer pong parties! Grad school was such an experience, both good and bad. It's a TON of work. Oh, and all the papers. LOOOOOOOng papers. But if you ever go, let me know!

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on August 20, 2012:

Well, ya know, Sis, I've done all three of the first steps, but I didn't try "recording" - hmm. That's a great idea! Nice job! I've often thought about a Master's in English, but I had friends who did it and all they did for two solid years was read. LOL. I'm too impatient for that. Hehe. But, I'll refer back to this next time I'm due to take an exam. :D

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on June 05, 2012:

Thanks, laadhy! These tips worked for me. Got me through a lot of really tough exams!

laadhy from Maldives- The Paradise on Earth on June 05, 2012:

Really very helpful tips, Thank you

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on May 24, 2012:

thanks, Linda Trotman! Yes, I actually have thought of publishing a book. I could probably expound on these ideas as I have lived through them. Thanks for the encouragement.

Linda Trotman on May 24, 2012:

Have you thought of publishing a book.....this is great information/techniques and people get paid to publish some awful stuff.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on April 10, 2012:

Thanks, BigEd. You're very welcome.

BigEd5857 on April 10, 2012:

Awesome. Bookmarking. Thank You Ms. Victoria.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on April 01, 2012:

These methods worked for me, Mary, for some major exams. Hope they help your students!

Mary from Washington on April 01, 2012:

Makes me want to go back to school. Thank you for your great ideas. I work with students with test anxieties. i will pass your ideas on to them.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 20, 2012:

laurel536--Reading notes aloud really does help. Yes, try recording and listening back. It will add another level to your studies!

laurel536 from North Carolina, United States on March 20, 2012:

As an undergrad student, I spend a lot of my time studying for various exams. I only recently started reading my notes aloud to help me remember and I have been surprised at how much it helps. Now I have to try your suggestion about recording myself and playing it back.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 17, 2012:

Exactly, networmed! You got it! The audio really does help!

networmed from SPL on March 17, 2012:

Hi Victoria... Tip #3 and 4 are absolutely true. This can be recorded in a digital voice recorder or even in PC or laptop with builtin microphone, convert to mp3 and load it up in iPod or any mp3 player.

That is why I like to have both the book and the audiobook for any book I want to read.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 15, 2012:

Thanks, prasetio! I love when people learn new things. After all, I AM a teacher! :-)

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on March 15, 2012:

Very informative hub, Victoria. I always learn many things from you. Thanks for writing. I should make my English better than before. God bless you!


Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 15, 2012:

You're welcome, priya. Glad to share the tips and hope they are helpful!

priya on March 15, 2012:


Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 15, 2012:

Vellur--I try to be a super woman! :-) Got that from my mother. Thanks for your support and great comments!

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on March 14, 2012:

These tips are great. You sure are a superwoman doing so many things at a time. Great hub. Voted up.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 14, 2012:

Roger that, Ruchira! You're cool!

Ruchira from United States on March 14, 2012:

yup, did all the above Vicki and am thankful for possessing a pile of certificates under my arm ;)

These sure are helpful methods...roger that!

Voted up and sharing!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 14, 2012:

EuroCafeAuLait--Your name sounds delish! :-) So glad this hub can help your colleagues. I hope it works for them. Thanks!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 14, 2012:

Thanks, Debby. When I have to study, I do want to do well, and I found something that worked. Love those note cards! AND your comments!

Anastasia Kingsley from Croatia, Europe on March 14, 2012:

Hi, Vicki - Great! Just in the nick of time. I passed my final, but have four colleagues with an exam next week. Sharing on my Facebook page, hope it helps get them over the hump. Great topic with Spring exams. Up and useful!.

Debby Bruck on March 13, 2012:

Dear Vicki ~ Wise words given here. You must be a study guru. Oy ~ all those index cards we stacked up and carried around with rubber bands and in little file holders. How many times we reviewed facts and concepts just to pass an exam. Anxiety! Then Whew! Blessings, Debby (vote awesome and useful)

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 13, 2012:

AEvans--Great! Let me know how it works. These study methods worked great for me. I'll use them again if I ever need to study again! :-)

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 13, 2012:

Lord--Kelly the Bunny? :-) A grad school friend of mine will vouch for these tips, too. He was often my study partner, although not quite as radical a study warrior as I was! ha Thanks, Lord!!!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 13, 2012:

I hear ya, RealH! Repetition works great! :-)

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 13, 2012:

Thanks, teaches! "Stellar hub"--I appreciate that. Great comments. I have still felt tense before a test, but I pretty much know that I have the material down pretty well. Thanks again!

Julianna from SomeWhere Out There on March 13, 2012:

I will use this in the summer when I am back in school. Thanks for the tips. Bookmarked. Thumbs up and shared. :)

Joseph De Cross from New York on March 13, 2012:

Wow! Kelly the Bunny writing over. These are excellent tips, and I have seen friends at College going through that nrevousness. Good and great ideas.


Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on March 13, 2012:

Great tips! I do rewrite things - like some of the math formulas - I'd write them over and over and over and over and get the picture:) lol Repetition works for me!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 13, 2012:

sam209--Cool about using this type of method with song-writing. I guess it's the same principle. These methods have been great for learning info for big exams. Thanks for the feedback!

Dianna Mendez on March 13, 2012:

Your ideas are great aids to getting a good score on any test. I also believe that studying hard, writing and taking notes will help the retention of information. Although, I still have to work out the nervous tension prior to taking the exam. Thanks for sharing, Victoria. You've written another stellar hub!

sam209 on March 13, 2012:

I like your methods. It's been awhile since I've been tested, but in the future these lessons will be helpful if/when the time comes to pass an exam. Actually I use these methods when writing a song. After researching the subject I'm writing about, I take notes. After the lyrics are done, I read it out loud and record it, so I can hear what the audience will be hearing. Thanks for this informative piece!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 13, 2012:

Awesome, Canada! Glad to be of service. These techniques really are how I got through grad school, especially that oral exam. Woo! Let me know how things go with your students. Hugs from Arkansas!

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 13, 2012:

Thanks, Susan, for the comments and for sharing. These methods really do work!

Canada on March 13, 2012:

Hey Vic: this advice comes at an opportune time, since my students are a mere three weeks away from finals. I'll be providing this four step method in my lecture notes when I discuss exam prep.

Victoria Lynn (author) from Arkansas, USA on March 13, 2012:

onlooker--It does work, doesn't it! Hope these methods help others. Thanks for the comments!

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on March 13, 2012:

I've found reading, then taking notes of what I've just read, reading them out loud and writing them over again tends to make the info stick in my brain. Great article and steps on studying.

Up useful and awesome! Sharing too :)

onlooker on March 13, 2012:

Ahh yes, the classic read and write technique, always works for me. Useful information, Victoria thank you!

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