5 Test-Taking Strategies for Psychology Exams

Nothing can replace great study skills, but practicing good test-taking strategies can help improve your performance on psychology exams. These tips are applicable to virtually any topic, so start working on your own personal approach to test-taking in order to determine which techniques work best for you.

Whenever you take a test, spend a little time evaluating what you did that worked well and how you might apply those skills again in the future.


Start by Looking Over the Test

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As soon as you receive the exam, spend at least a couple minutes looking it over. How many questions are there? What type of questions are on the test? In many cases, your psychology tests will be a mix of different questions types. For example, the test might include a number of multiple-choice questions, a true-false section, and a few essay-style questions.

Understanding the format of the test will give you a better idea of how to budget your time.


Pace Yourself

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Most tests have some sort of time requirement, so it is important to answer questions as quickly as possible in order to fully complete the exam.

Start by determining how long you have for each question. Generally, you should allow approximately 30 to 60 seconds for each multiple-choice question, depending upon the amount of time you have available for the test.


Don't Skip Around

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Some recommend starting with the easiest questions first before going back to finish the difficult questions at the end of the test. While this strategy may work for some students, it also makes it more likely that you will forget to answer skipped questions.

Also, you'll lose more time by having to look back over your test and figure out which questions you didn't answer. Instead, try working your way through the exam in the order the questions are presented.

If you do find yourself struggling with a particular question, place a clear and obvious mark next to it and then move on to the next question. When you are finished with each section of the test, you can then quickly go back to the marked questions and try to come up with a response.


Use the Process of Elimination

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Generally, the first few multiple-choice questions will be the easiest, but don't let this lead to overconfidence. The questions will probably become increasingly difficult the further you delve into the exam, which is when you should start employing a psychology test-taking strategy known as the process of elimination.

When you encounter a question that you don't immediately know the answer to, start by carefully reading each possible answer. Then start ruling out the options that make the least sense. Even if you are completely baffled by the question, it is often possible to use common sense and your prior knowledge of psychological topics to determine a likely answer.

Remember that some multiple-choice tests include more than one answer that is technically correct. Your job is to select the answer that fully answers the question and is the "most correct" out of all the possible options.


Read Each Question Carefully

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It may sound like a bit of very obvious advice, but reading each question carefully is one of the most important test-taking strategies you can use on any psychology test. As you begin to read the question, you might immediately formulate a response before you've even finished reading the question.

If you were to write your answer before you fully read the question, you might miss out on important information or even give the wrong response.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bayram B. Scale for test preparation and test taking strategies. Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice. 2013;13(1):279-389.

  2. Tennessee Department of Education. Five best practices to support student ACT success.

Additional Reading

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.