What To Do With Practice Exams

Taking practice exams

If you were given practice tests to study from- use them! Tips for practice tests:

1) Try to simulate the conditions you will experience in the real test:

  • If your actual test is online or take-home, take the practice test in the location you will be taking the real exam. If your test is on campus,  make sure you’re familiar with the testing room.
  • If the test is timed, take the practice test it in the amount of time that you will have.

2) Use the same resources you’ll be allowed to use on the real test:

  • If your test is closed book, don’t use any resources. (That includes answer keys!)
  • If your test is open-book and/or open-internet, use your study guides to help you decide what material you’ll want to have close by during the practice test.

3) If you have access to multiple practice tests, try taking one at the beginning of your studying to get a baseline sense of your knowledge and how long it will take. After you have studied, take another practice test.

Why does taking practice tests work? The testing effect

There is something called the “testing effect” – when you take a test under testing (or test-like) conditions, you have to retrieve information from your memory, making it easier to recall at a later time.Taking practice tests is retrieval practice because you are actively recalling information, which leads to improved ability to recall later on (on the exam!).

Want to learn more? The video below explains the testing effect and how it works.


Up Next: Exam preparation strategies and exam logistics

1 Karpicke, J.D. & Blunt, J.R. (2011). Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping. Science, 331(6018), 772-775.  https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1199327