The Eight Qualities of Great Test takers

We all know those people: great test takers. The ones who seem to study less but do better. I’ve met many in my 20 years of test prep tutoring, and I can tell you it’s not magic. There are specific things great test takers do to separate them from their peers and deliver consistently high scores. Here are the eight most important qualities of great test takers.

They are test confident

I cannot overestimate how important confidence is to success. Great test takers believe they can succeed on their test. Here’s why it’s so important:

  1. The test can be difficult at first.
  2. To succeed, students must work through that difficulty.
  3. Confident students work through difficulty. Students who don’t believe they can succeed give up.

It’s that simple. Great test takers know their work will pay off, so they work hard, and they improve.

They have test-equanimity

Test equanimity is the ability to work as well with anxiety as without. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having anxiety during a test. Lots of great test takers are anxious. The key is how it affects you. As science shows, it’s not whether we have anxiety but how we react to our anxiety that matters. Great test takers understand that anxiety just means they care about doing well. They accept it and breathe through it. Their test-equanimity is high.

They have vertical fluidity on reading and grammar passages

Many students move through a test in one direction. They’ll read a question or a reading passage and never go back to reread. But students need to reread passages when answering reading comprehension questions. They also need to quickly skim through a passage to find the material they need. Skimming ability and reading stamina can be built with practice, but students must accept that sometimes you move backward to go forward correctly.

They reread math questions after doing work

It’s not uncommon for a student to think they aced their math section only to get a disappointing score. This happens because math questions are sometimes tricky. They’re tricky not just in the material, but in what they ask. Below is a simplified example.

3x – 5 = 5x + 9

If the equation above is true, what is the value of x + 5?

  1. -7
  2. -4
  3. -2
  4. 7

In school, students almost always solve for x. They never, or very rarely, solve for x + 5. It may sound crazy, but a lot of students forget what they’re supposed to find and solve instead for x. And of course, the value of x is always one of the answers. On straightforward questions like the one above, it’s usually not a big deal, but on long problems, it’s a problem.

Great test takers check to make sure they’re answering the right question. It makes a big difference.

They have test toughness

Test toughness is a student’s ability and willingness to work through difficult questions without getting intimidated. To understand how important this ability is, we first need to be clear on the purpose of standardized tests, which is not to measure intelligence. The purpose of standardized tests is to separate students along a spectrum to make admission decisions easier for schools. Tests can’t just contain straightforward questions because too many students would get them all right, so test makers disguise their questions to make them seem harder, which often means new and odd-looking questions.

Most students don’t have any experience with either applying their knowledge to new problems or untangling difficult-looking questions. When students see a new type of problem, many think “I’ve never seen this before so I must not know how to do it.” They skip it and move on. But they do know how to solve these problems, they just have to push through the difficulty. Once a student pushes through their unfamiliarity, they often find that the question is pretty basic. But they need test toughness to get through the difficulty.

They are time sensitive

All questions in a standardized test section have the same value, from the easiest to the hardest. It doesn’t make sense to spend five minutes on a confusing or difficult question before you’ve solved everything else. Great test takers know this and move on before they spend too much valuable time on one question.

They have high transference ability

As we said above, standardized tests present students with tricky looking questions. Most of the time, the trick is in asking them to apply a common topic to a new question. An example is below:

A circle with a radius of 2/π inches will roll how many feet in in 6 revolutions?

  1. 2
  2. 4
  3. 12
  4. 24

At first glance, this question seems very difficult. How should we know how far a circle rolls?

Few students are taught this in school, but a circle rolls its circumference in one revolution. We just need to find the circumference and multiply by six.

Circumference = 2 πr

Our circle has a radius of 2/π inches, so the circumference is 4 inches. In six revolutions, it will roll 24 inches.

Before we choose D), lets reread the question. Here we see that the questions asks for the answer in feet, not inches, so our answer is A), 2.

This is not a hard question to solve, once you figure out what to do, and that’s true of most math questions on standardized tests. The better a student gets at transferring their knowledge, the easier the test becomes.

They look for wrong answers, not just right ones

There is more than one way to get a question right on a multiple-choice test. You can either find the one right answer or you can find all the wrong answers. On some of the trickiest questions, it’s easier to find the wrong answers. Even if a student can only eliminate one or two wrong answers, they significantly increase their chances of guessing correctly.

How to find out if you or your child possess these skills

Now you know what great test takers do. The problem, I’ve found, is figuring out if a student is doing them. Most of these eight essential skills aren’t visible, and how a student actually takes a test can be different from how they practice. Even when I’ve watched a student take an entire test section, I can’t tell if they’re rereading math questions or reading passages, and I can’t measure their anxiety. I ask students whether they reread questions on their exam, but some don’t remember, and some don’t want to admit that they didn’t.

Fortunately, now you can know how your child is taking their exam, and if they’re working to their full potential. With Biometric Edge, we can measure your child’s pulse and eye movements as they take their exam. We monitor how much time they spend on each question and cross reference everything against their right and wrong answers. Is their anxiety affecting their performance? Which questions are they answering too quickly? How long do they spend reading a reading comprehension passage? We can tell you.

Admission to top level schools is more competitive than ever, and the boost that a higher test score can give you is immense. Don’t leave things to chance. Get the peace of mind that ensures your child isn’t giving away valuable points and is working to their full potential. Contact Biometric Edge now!