48 Why It Matters: Testing and Test Strategies

April Ring

Why learn about testing and testing strategies?

In college, testing is simply a part of your learning. Instructors use tests in order to see whether you are on track to reach the learning objectives of the class. Understanding how testing fits into being successful in a course is an important aspect of college success.

A common misunderstanding about college assessments is that tests should be treated differently from other class learning activities, demanding a higher level of performance than the rest of the class and extended amounts of study. In truth, however, the entire class is structured to help students learn and practice the material on which they will be tested throughout the course. From the time you first begin to learn a concept, you will be tested on it many times, both informally through discussions, activities, homework, and quizzes and formally through projects and exams. Consider the example below:

approaches to exams

A student sitting at her laptop starting at it with her head in her hands.Maria and Thomas are in the same biology course. Maria was an A student in high school, went to every class, took notes, and did all her assignments. In preparation for her midterm, she studied for three hours a day for a week, re-read all her notes, made flash cards, and used all the other tools she relied on in high school. When the instructor did not offer a review for the midterm, she was very frustrated and felt unsure about how to proceed and if she’d do well on the exam.


A group of students quietly working on a study project together.Thomas carefully considered how and where he would keep his notes for the class. In his reading and during class, he linked new concepts to information he was familiar with, jotted down questions, and reviewed his notes at the end of the day. He met with a study group once a week to discuss what they’d learned and apply those concepts to their own lives. When the instructor did not offer a review for the midterm, he went through the practice questions that he and his study group came up with for each concept in order to prepare, working for about an hour each night.

The difference between Maria and Thomas is in how they prepared for their midterm. Maria treated the midterm as a major and unique way to demonstrate her learning; and she placed the responsibility on the instructor to prepare her before for the test. For Thomas, the midterm was just another way of demonstrating his learning, adding to his active learning during class and readings, daily quick reviews, and weekly study group meetings. He took on the responsibility to prepare for the test as soon as he began learning each concept for class.

Just like learning how to study, read, and write for college; communicate with instructors; and the other skills outlined in this course, understanding how to prepare, perform on, and learn from a test is a helpful tool for college success. In this module, you will learn how to prepare for a test, how to successfully use test-taking strategies, how to deal with test anxiety and other challenges, and how to learn from mistakes in order to reap the benefits of test taking.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Why It Matters: Testing and Test Strategies Copyright © 2023 by April Ring is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book