TAKING PROBLEMSOLVING TESTS
back
The University of
Alabama
Center for Academic Success
124 Osband
3485175
First,
Preparation—Before the Test

Review your
notes and textbook, listing the major concepts and formulas that were
covered.
 Highlight
those topics or problems that were emphasized. Note why they were
emphasized.
 The
most effective way to prepare is to solve problems—lots of them!
Choose problems not previously assigned and work them.

Analyze all
the problems you work. Use these questions as a guide:

What concepts, formulas, and rules did I apply?

What methods did I use?

How did I begin?

Have I seen this type of problem before?

How is it like or not like other problems I have worked?

How does my solution compare with examples from the book and
lectures?

Could this problem be worked another way? Can
I simplify what I did?

As you complete
a step in solving the problem, summarize the problem, summarize what
you did and why.
 Look
for fundamental problem types. Make sure you can recognize what they
are.
 Practice
working problems out of sequence.
 Make
up a practice test. Choose the same number of sample items that you
think will be on the test. Then, try to work them within the same time
span as the test.
Second,
Preparation—Before the Test

Write down
formulas, relationships, definitions, etc., that you want to remember
before attempting to answer any questions.

Preview the
whole test in order to develop a plan for your work. If any thoughts
come to mind, jot them down.

Plan your time.
Allow more time for problems with the higher point values. Save some
time at the end of the period for review.

Begin with the
easier problems. Then, in approaching the more difficult problems:

Make absolutely sure you understand the problem. Mark key
words and identify the givens and unknowns in your own words. Sketch a
diagram or picture of the problem.

Make a note, in symbols, diagrams, graphs, or tables of all
the information given.

For complex problems, list all the formulas you consider
might be relevant to the solution. Then decide which you will need to
begin with.
 As you complete a step in solving the
problem,

Write out, if possible, an equation to express the
relationships among all of the givens and unknowns, accounting for all
of the date and facts in the problem.

Think back to similar practice problems and work each part,
thus building up to a solution.

Guess an answer and check it. Possibly the checking process
will suggest a solution method.
 If all else fails, mark it to come
back to and work a different problem. You may find clues in other
problems.

For all
problems, easy and difficult:

Once you have the solution method, follow it carefully. Check
each step for consistency in notation. Document all of your work so
that it may be read easily. Write legibly.

Evaluate your solutions. Check your answer against the
problem to make sure it fits.

Try all test
problems. If your mind goes blank, relax for a moment and try to think
about something else. If you run out of time and still have some
problems left, try to gain at least partial credit by setting the
problems up in a solution plan (even if you can’t follow through on
calculations).
Third,
Analyzing the results
After
your test is returned:

Read the
comments and suggestions.

Locate the
source of the test—lectures, textbooks, or homework.

Note any
transformations—how were the problems changed from those in the
notes or homework.

Determine the
source of your errors.

Were your errors due to carelessness?

Did you misread the questions?

Did you consistently miss the same kind of problem?

Could you remember the formulas correctly?

Were you unable to finish the test because you ran out of
time?

Were you unable to solve problems because you had not
practiced doing similar ones?
 Did you have a difficult time during
the test because you were too anxious to focus on the questions?
