So Long, Stupid Mistakes! Six Ways to Avoid Silly Errors on Tests

There is nothing more frustrating than getting your test back only to discover that you made silly mistakes that cost you precious points – especially when you know the material like the back of your hand. While stupid mistakes on tests are bound to happen occasionally, you can greatly reduce them by religiously doing these six things.

Eliminate or reduce your text anxiety.

If your nerves are going haywire before your test, you’re more likely to make mistakes. We’ve got your back – check out our previous blog for reducing your testing anxiety so you can stay calm and stay focused.

Be strategic with your time – and aim to have some time left over.

As soon as you get the test, flip through it and take note of how many questions there are, and what each section entails. Set general time limits for each section and keep your eye on the clock to ensure you don’t run out. If you’re rushing through the final section at warp speed, you’ll likely make several stupid mistakes. Most importantly, allot five to ten minutes at the end of class to check your answers.

Read every question twice.

Most of my stupid mistakes on tests resulted from misreading the question. Take your time and read every question through twice. To make sure you don’t miss anything, drag your finger under the text as you read it. After all, there is a big difference between, “Which of the following sentences is true?” and “Which of the following sentences is not true?”

Double-check everything when you’re done – even if you feel confident.

Once you’ve filled in all of your answers, double check everything. Go through each question one by one and make sure you’re happy with your answers. If the test is a Scantron, make sure that you’ve bubbled in the letter that correctly corresponds to the answer on your test sheet. This is a common error that test-takers make!

On essay tests, always create an outline before starting to write.

Once you’ve read (and reread!) the essay prompt, create an outline that includes everything you want to touch on in your essay. It doesn’t need to be lengthy, but thorough enough that you can use it as a guide as you write. Once you begin writing, it can be easy to lose track of what you’re trying to say and get a bit off topic. By creating a quick outline immediately after reading the prompt, you’ll stay on track and remember all of the points you wanted to highlight in your essay.

Review your tests when you get them back, and take note of common mistakes.

When your teacher hands back a test, don’t throw it in your backpack without a second thought. Go over whatever questions you missed, and see if there were any silly errors. You may notice that you repeatedly make the same mistake, like skimming a prompt too quickly or overthinking a multiple-choice question. Going forward, you can be extra careful to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

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