The 10 Best Strategies to Improve Your Standardized Test Score

The 10 Best Strategies to Improve Your Standardized Test Score

1. Learn from your mistakes

This is by far, the thing that separates students who improve from those who don’t. The students who work on their weaknesses improve. The ones who don’t never reach their full potential.

It can be uncomfortable, but figure out where you’re weak and work on it. The best thing you can do for this is to go over your Biometric Edge exam and watch the explanations for every question you missed (you can find these on your Answer Key). See how the question is solved. Make sure you understand it. If you’re still confused, search for more help online or ask your math teacher or your tutor, if you have one.

2. Understand the purpose of standardized tests and what that means

The purpose of standardized tests is different from the purpose of school exams. The purpose of school exams is to measure whether you understand a topic. The purpose of standardized tests is to separate students along a spectrum. Again: standardized tests are not trying to measure intelligence; they’re trying to separate students into a bell curve of scores. They must separate the great from the merely good and the excellent from the merely great.

To do this, test makers create questions that look different from questions you see in school, even though they’re testing the same knowledge. Many of these questions look difficult at first. Most of the time, however, they aren’t difficult to solve. If you can push through your initial confusion, you can find the answer. But you have to push through. Again: you’re going to see unfamiliar-looking questions. How you respond determines your level of success.

3. Be confident and push through difficulty

There’s a reason that confident students outperform non-confident students. It doesn’t have anything to do with intelligence, either. Confident students work harder and push through difficulty, while insecure students give up.

Think of this way: if I asked you to look for a set of keys I may have left in a messy room, and I told you that I was pretty sure they weren’t there, how hard would you look for them, and for how long? You’d probably give minimal effort and give up quickly. But what if I said I was 100% sure the keys were in the room? You would look with more attention, and for longer.

The same is true on hard questions, many of which are easier than they seem at first read (this is especially true on the math sections). Students who believe they’ll succeed give more attention, eliminate wrong answers, and find the solution. Students who think the test is too hard for them give up, because why try if you’re sure you won’t succeed?

Be confident in your ability to push through difficulty. You don’t have to believe that you can get everything correct right now, but you must believe that you have the ability to succeed.

4. Eliminate obviously wrong answers

Sometimes, it’s easier to find all the wrong answers than it is to find the right answer. Sometimes, eliminating one or two obviously wrong answers makes the right one stick out. If nothing else, getting rid of one wrong answer raises your odds of guessing correctly.

5. Reread passages when answering reading comprehension questions

For almost everyone, going back to reread a section of the passage is absolutely essential to doing well on reading comprehension. If a question cites a particular line, read the sentences before and after that line as well.

6. Write down your work in math

I’ve been teaching math for 20 years. I create problems. I write manuals. I’ve created a math app. It isn’t bragging to say that I am phenomenal at standardized-test math. And when I solve problems, I write down my work.

If I do it, you should do it.

Students don’t realize, but it’s actually quicker to write down your work than to solve problems in your head. It doesn’t seem that way, because you don’t realize how much time is passing when you’re in your head. Trust me, though, writing down your work is quicker and more accurate and will get you a higher score.

7. Practice taking full tests

These exams test your stamina as well as your problem-solving ability. The way to build your focus and stamina is to take full exams. You cannot get a good sense of how you’ll do on a test until you take a full exam.

8. Be aware of timing

It’s a long test, and at the same time, sections can go by quickly. You must be aware of the time and not spend too long on any one question (unless you’re done the rest of the questions). If a question just isn’t making any sense, skip it and come back to it at the end.

The best thing you can do for this is to take a full test on Biometric Edge. Go through the Timing section on your score report and see how your timing compared to the average. If you struggled to finish, see where you spent the majority of your time, or if you spent over three minutes on one question.

9. Check your work

Standardized tests are tricky, and it’s very easy to make a small mistake. If you have time at the end of a section, check your work. You’ll be glad you did.

10. Know your target score and understand scoring

Unless you want a perfect score, you don’t need to get everything right. You can miss a number of questions and still get a 1500 on the SAT or average an 8 on the ISEE (which are both fantastic scores). More importantly, you can figure out whether you’re ready to take your exam or if you need more practice.

Do some research about the exam and the schools you want to attend. What’s the average test score for incoming students? How many questions can you miss and still get that score? Google is very helpful for finding scoring charts for each test and the test averages for most schools.

Standardized tests aren’t magic. They’re math, reading, sometimes grammar and sometimes science. They may seem difficult at first, but there are clear steps you can take to improve and get into the school of your dreams. Follow these 10 steps, and you’ll see your score shoot upwards.

To your success!