TAKING PROBLEM-SOLVING TESTS   back

The University of Alabama
Center for Academic Success
124 Osband
348-5175

First, PreparationóBefore the Test

  1. Review your notes and textbook, listing the major concepts and formulas that were covered.

  2. Highlight those topics or problems that were emphasized. Note why they were emphasized.
  3. The most effective way to prepare is to solve problemsólots of them! Choose problems not previously assigned and work them.
  4. 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?

  1. As you complete a step in solving the problem, summarize the problem, summarize what you did and why.

  2. Look for fundamental problem types. Make sure you can recognize what they are.
  3. Practice working problems out of sequence.
  4. 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, PreparationóBefore the Test

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

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

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

  4. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. If all else fails, mark it to come back to and work a different problem. You may find clues in other problems.
  2. 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.

  1. 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 canít follow through on calculations).

Third, Analyzing the results
After your test is returned:

  1. Read the comments and suggestions.

  2. Locate the source of the testólectures, textbooks, or homework.

  3. Note any transformationsóhow were the problems changed from those in the notes or homework.

  4. 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?

  1. Did you have a difficult time during the test because you were too anxious to focus on the questions?