If students fail to complete a standardized test or certification exam, more often than not it's because they spend way too much time on a single question or they spot a few difficult ones and develop an acute sense of anxiety and fear. The lack of time management can prove to be your undoing in an exam. But there's no cause for alarm. You can ace a test by following some simple yet effective time management techniques.
Stick to your test plan
Before going into your exam, read up on test types, question types, and exam scoring. Go into your exam with a custom test plan that takes into account how much time you'll have for each question, the difficulty level of questions, how your exam is scored, and any strengths or weaknesses you may have. However, at times, students are overwhelmed with anxiety and they forget all their strategies during the exam. Make sure that you remain calm and stick to your test plan.
Browse through the entire paper quickly
Depending on the format of a test (paper based or computer based), you may or may not have access to the complete test at once. If you are allowed to go back and forth, glance through the entire paper to get an idea of the kind of questions you'll encounter. After a quick look, begin by solving the easiest questions and finish these as quickly as possible. Before you take an exam, you should be aware of the number of sections, the number of questions in each section and the amount of time allotted for every section. This way, you will know where you stand at any given point in the exam and you can plan ahead accordingly.
Don't lose track of the time-equation
Based on your test plan, you'll have calculated the number of minutes you can devote to every question. Once you move on to more difficult questions, keep the time-question equation at the back of your mind. If a question is taking too long, you have two options – you can persist with it or you can move to another question. The decision depends primarily on the number of points it carries. If the entire paper is scored uniformly (i.e. if every question carries equal point values), you should not spend too much time on one question. However, if a question is worth more points than others or if it has multiple subparts, you can afford to treat it differently.
Keep your calm and forge ahead
If you get a few difficult questions in succession, don't panic and try to forge ahead. In fact, take a minute or two to close your eyes and relax. It might seem like a waste of time, but it will be immensely helpful in the long run. Once you get your head together, return to the questions with a refreshed mind. Additionally, remember that a lot of tests like the GRE and GMAT use progressive gradation, i.e. the difficulty level gradually increases if you have answered the previous questions correctly. Therefore, if the questions are becoming progressively tricky, it is actually a sign of your brilliant performance!
To guess or not to guess
You will be faced with this dilemma at some point in the exam. For instance, consider a situation where you have been able to eliminate two choices out of four in a multiple choice question, but you can't seem to decide between the other two. Should you take a guess or should you return to it later? If you have no clue about the final answer and your exam doesn't deduct points for incorrect answers, go ahead and take a blind guess. On the other hand, if you are running ahead of your schedule, leave the question now and give yourself another chance later. However, if you are taking a computer-based exam, this may not be possible so make sure you know whether points are deducted for wrong answers or if it is okay to continue guessing.
Learn to improvise when running out of time
In some cases, you might need to change you test strategy depending on the time-question equation. What should you do when you have too many questions to complete in very little time? Your ultimate aim should be to solve the maximum number of questions in the remaining period of time. Look for easier questions that can be solved quickly if you are not taking a computer-based exam. Once these are done, move rapidly through others without pausing for too long on a single question. Five minutes before the end of the exam, take as many guesses as you can (unless your exam has wrong answer penalties!) and pray for a streak of luck. Finally, don't forget to carry an accurate watch with a second hand to the test.
Here's hoping that you come out with flying colors!