9 Tips for Taking Tests in Exam Centers
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5. Prepare physically. Even if you have trouble sleeping the night before an exam, engaging in relaxing,
enjoyable activities before bed can help to soothe your nerves. Avoid consuming a
heavy meal or alcoholic beverages, as this can affect the quality of your sleep. If
you have time, taking a brisk walk the morning of the exam can help to reduce stress
and focus your mind. It can also be beneficial to do a few light stretches before
you enter the exam room, as you will be sitting in the same position for a long
time. Once you are seated, periodically stretching your arms and legs and doing a
few head rolls can help you to stay comfortable and alert.
6. Dress for comfort. Exam day is definitely not the time to dress to impress. Wear comfortable clothing
that allows you to move freely. Many testing centers tend to be kept fairly cool in
order to accommodate the heat generated by large amounts of electronic equipment.
For this reason, it is usually best to wear layers. Some facilities do not allow
test candidates to hang items of clothing on the backs of their chairs, so you may
need to decide how many layers you need before you enter the room and store the rest
in your locker.
7. Bring high-energy snacks. If you are taking a particularly long exam, you may wish to bring a few healthy
foods to nibble on during break time. Snacks such as nuts, sports bars and
hard-boiled eggs can provide a quick burst of energy without slowing you down. It
can also be beneficial to bring a water bottle for a few quick sips, though it is
wise to take it easy on drinks, and especially caffeine, on the day of an exam as
there will likely be long stretches between bathroom breaks.
8. Be ready for security measures.
Professional testing facilities are serious about ensuring that your exam is
completed in compliance with the guidelines of the governing testing organization.
This means that you may feel like you are one full body scan away from replicating a
trip through airport security before you enter the testing room. An exam center
employee may ask you to show that your pockets are empty and that you have nothing
up your sleeves or pant cuffs. You may also be asked to store items that are not in
compliance with regulations, such as watches with calculators, cell phones or your
own writing implements in your locker. Some centers also forbid items on the wrists,
such as hair ties, and may ask you to wear them in your hair or store them. It can
be a difficult process to endure when you are anxious to begin your exam, and it may
even seem a bit offensive that trustworthy you must go through all these procedures,
but it is easier, and less stressful, to grin and bear them.
9. Take your time getting settled.
In most cases, once the clock is running, you will need to stay focused on your
exam, either until a break period or its conclusion. For this reason, it can be wise
to take your time as you get settled at your test station. Make sure you are
comfortable with your keyboard, mouse and seat position. Examine your testing
materials, such as pencil, paper and calculator to ensure that they are functional.
Even if you feel you understand the format of the test well enough to skip the test
questions, it can be a good warm-up to take that extra few minutes to get used to
the system. Then you can take a deep breath, do one last little stretch and plunge
into that test with the knowledge that you are comfortable, prepared and ready to
Kendahl Cruver is a freelance writer and testing assistance contractor
based in the Pacific Northwest.
Editor's Note: Two of the most popular testing centers are Pearson VUE and Prometric.
Pearson's administers millions of tests annually in academic admissions, certification, licensure, and government testing. It has more than 5,000 test centers.
Prometric and the DSST credit by examination program have made 10 of its most popular exams available online. The exams are offered to students interested in earning college credits through examination.
The DSST program offers 37 exams in select subject areas, including Criminal Justice, Ethics in America, Fundamentals of College Algebra, Introduction to Computing, Introduction to World Religions, Management Information Systems, Personal Finance, and Principles of Statistics.
See also, Reduce Exam Anxiety.