This is a discussion taken from SCCO’s Facebook Group for Pre-optometry Students. Students talk about methods to improve scores on standardized tests, (i.e. the OAT).
Question: I have trouble taking standardized tests. They psych me out! I’m worried about doing well on the OAT. Any suggestions for how to study or overcome this issue?
Answer #1: I took the Kaplan class. It helped with study material and they teach good test taking strategies which served to boost my confidence.
Answer #2: Practice, practice, and practice. Try to set up your studying routine and practice exams in a test like environment: a silent room, no computer, no phone, no talking, and most importantly, obey your time constraints with a stop watch.
Answer #3: Try to reframe it – you’re not poor at standardized test but you haven’t learned the skills/practiced taking them enough. I used that tactic with admittedly limited success while teaching remedial math.
I’d agree with Answer #2: try to practice as much as possible in as close to a testing environment as possible. I have trouble taking tests like that when I feel that I have my own way of understanding the material but then the questions test your knowledge in a different way. Practice questions help a lot.
Answer #4: Practice with online diagnostic tests. Since the OAT is on the computer, I would advise you to practice at the computer and use a dry erase board to create a test-friendly habit. Also, look at weak areas, the ones you score lower in and try to focus more on that topic. In addition, try to build up your stamina to take this lengthy test by taking full length exams.
Answer #5: I totally fit the bill on not doing well on standardized tests. To compensate for this, I figured it was worth the money to sign up for the Kaplan course. They provide you with free practice exams which were great for me. I figured out my strengths/weaknesses, and how to get into the mindset of the exam. What really helped was doing a practice exam on the same day of the week for 2-3 weeks before the day of my exam. In other words, if you’re exam is scheduled for 8am Saturday, do a practice exam at 8am on a few Saturdays before your official exam. This way, you are not only preparing for the standardized test, but also preparing your mind for that exact day and time! This helped me a lot.
Answer #6: Kaplan offers free practice exams that are accessible online. Go to http://www.kaptest.com/OAT/Home/index.html and just type in your zip code next to “attend a free event” near the bottom right hand side. In addition to being a standardized test, it’s also electronic so everything is on the computer. Some people get nervous about that so learn about the testing format so you feel comfortable with the way the test is given on the computer.
Answer #7: Definitely agree with what everyone else said. Also, I had trouble organizing all my study material (there’s a lot of info to know!) so I decided to go with the Kaplan course. It was super helpful with providing practice tests, and giving strategies about how to efficiently take the OAT. The hardest thing for me while prepping for the OAT was staying within the time limit for each section. Taking the Kaplan course really helped me cut down on my time for the sections, and by the end of the summer session, I was able to manage my time and check my answers at the end of a section.
Answer #8: I also took Kaplan, though I really think it depends on who is teaching your course. I definitely recommend the material though if you don’t have the funds to take the course (which can be pretty pricey). I also highly suggest studying the basics first and then doing as many practice problems as possible. Then when it comes closer to the test date, take practice tests once a day or every other day to make sure you keep within the time limit. Also, I suggest that during your break, write down all the physics formula you can remember on your whiteboard so that you don’t waste time thinking about it during the physics section (since that section is right after break).
OAT destroyer was really helpful for me. I also watched some of Chad’s videos from www.coursesaver.com which is a lot cheaper than Kaplan and worth it since you can buy per video or per section. I highly recommend watching that because he teaches shortcuts and how to derive the answer or recognize the answer quickly, to save time. Also do multiple sections a day (so not just one subject) so that you don’t forget what you went over the week before.
Answer #9: Definitely try to mimic the actual testing situation for the OAT and get yourself comfortable with reading/working on the computer. The average person reads much slower on the computer as opposed to a paper in front of them. So anything practice tests that you can get your hands on will definitely be helpful.
Answer #10: I had a terrible time with standardized tests. It was a classmate in optometry school who taught me this simple principle that changed my perspective 180 degrees: when you’re stumped on a standardized test question, ask yourself : “What is it that this test question is asking?” It sounds SO simple! At the root of this theory is the assurance that the professor is ON YOUR SIDE! They are simply trying to find out what you know–they are NOT TRYING TO TRICK YOU! A person who has trouble with standardized tests feels panic and paranoia during the test-taking process which adversely affects confidence which then negatively impacts test performance. If you simply tell yourself that the professor is NOT trying to trick or trap you with his/her questions and that they are simply trying to determine your knowledge of the subject matter, you will relax and answer the question with more confidence. It was that simple for me. I look now at every test question from this viewpoint. Dr. Jane Ann Munroe, Director of Admissions for SCCO
Answer #11: I just randomly came across this thread and I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Munroe’s comment. I think it holds true for all types of standardized testing (including NBEO boards..eek!), but really relax and don’t over-think the questions. The tests are designed so that you won’t know every answer. Educated guessing based on context can help you gain a few extra points on questions that you really don’t know. Prepare as best as you can, but on the day of the test just let the cards fall where they may. If you think you don’t know the answer, ask yourself, “why are they asking this question?” Maybe something will pop into your head. 🙂 Good luck to everyone! Don’t stress too much. It’s a small stepping stone in the grand scheme of things. Mallori Aschenbrenner, SCCO Class of 2013
Final Comment from Dr. Munroe: Thanks Mallori who JUST HAPPENED TO get the highest score on Part I of the NBEO board exams! Mallori knows HOW to perform on standardized tests! Thanks for posting Mallori! Dr. Jane Ann Munroe, Director of Admissions for SCCO