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KNOXVILLE — Spring is the season for taking tests.

Millions of students around the country, and their parents, are thinking about standardized tests the students will take this spring — exams mandated by states for elementary and secondary students and tests for college and graduate admissions.

Steve McCallum, an education professor at the University of Tennessee, offers five strategies for students and their parents. McCallum is an expert in assessment and head of the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences.

Here are five tips:

1. Prepare Yourself — In the days leading up to the test, create a calm and relaxed environment. Get plenty of sleep the night before the test, and don’t skip breakfast the morning of the test. On the day of the test, bring the appropriate supplies such as No. 2 pencils, an approved calculator and scrap paper if allowed. Before the test, find out whether there is a penalty for guessing. If not, it is advantageous to guess.

2. Get the Lay of the Land — Once the test begins, look through the questions and note how much time there is to complete the test or section. Before answering questions, read the questions well and all of the multiple choice options; cross out the options that are wrong.

3. Pace Yourself — During the test, spend time on questions you can answer and answer those first. Skip questions you don’t know, put a question mark beside them and return to them later.

4. Stay Relaxed and Alert — If you feel yourself getting anxious, put your pencil down, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to relax.

5. Keep Going — Don’t quit and don’t turn in your test before time is up. Go back to the questions you couldn’t answer before and try them again. If you change an answer, make sure you erase the incorrect answer completely.

“Many schools are doing a good job of providing sample tests and discussing test-taking strategies,” McCallum said. “The best way to reduce anxiety is to be prepared. That is, to learn as much about the test material as you can before the test. There are ways test-takers can assume responsibility and control of their test results.”

McCallum is trained as a school psychologist with an emphasis on assessment and is the author of numerous articles, books and tests.


Elizabeth Davis, UT media relations, (865) 974-5179,