There is no one answer for this question. Instead, I’m going to list some of the things that have best helped my students in the past. The most important thing to realize is that doing well on a test is not just about knowing the material, it’s about focus, confidence and how you take an exam, as well.
The best way to improve on an exam is to study your mistakes. Why did you miss a question? How do you solve it? Were you fooled by the way the question or an answer choice was written, or did you just not know the material?
Going over errors can be uncomfortable, but fight through it. Study your weak points and avoid the temptation to just work on the sections you like most.
Practice often. Take at least four mock exams. Comb through the test when you’re done to see where you need to improve.
Standardized tests are not trying to measure your intelligence. Their purpose is to separate students along a spectrum so that a few score terribly, a few score really well, and most score in the middle. To achieve this, the test needs smart students to miss questions they could have answered correctly. There are two main ways they do this:
- Having answers that seem right but are just slightly wrong.
- Disguising questions so they seem more difficult than they are.
Two mindsets will help you immeasurably when facing the above:
- I need to be careful and check my answers.
- I can find the solution to this question.
The first mindset will help you avoid throwing away points with careless errors. The second will help you fight through difficulty. If you’re confident you can succeed, you’ll work harder and for longer on difficult questions.
Focus is not an unfortunate thing that gets in the way doing well on an exam; it’s part of your exam. Work on your focus the way you work on math and reading: with practice. Practice working for 50 minutes at a time and maintaining your focus throughout.
The best tool for improving your focus is meditation. This page offers instructions on how to meditate: https://www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate/. You can scroll down to “How to Meditate” a quarter of the way down the page.
One thing to remember: there is no good or bad meditation. Even if your mind wanders the entire time, you still meditated, and you still improved your mood and focus.
Stay positive and keep working. There will be times you don’t want to and times you may feel like you’re not improving: this happens with most students. Fight through it and keep working. If you need a pick me up, look back at old work to see how far you’ve come. You can do this.
To your success!