Mind over Matter
Tips for Conquering Standardized Exams
BY MICHELLE BOUCHER
Whether you’re preparing for graduate or profes- sional school or taking the ACS standardized subject tests as finals for your courses, chances are that multiple-choice exams loom in your future. Many times students convince themselves that, while they are generally good test takers, they are
“horrible at multiple-choice exams.” Not true!
If you’ve had difficulty taking multiple-choice tests, often it
may be simple fear or anxiety about the testing format itself that
is getting in your way. If you can answer a question on a written
exam, there is no reason you can’t answer the same question in
multiple-choice format … honestly! What may be holding you back
from doing your best might be simply the lack of a viable strategy
for using multiple choices to your advantage (after all, the correct
answer is there!) and feeling overwhelmed by the test format.
In this article I’ve included some practical, proven tips on how
to prepare for subject-specific multiple-choice exams. I recommend that you also read “How to Ace Your Chemistry Exams,” an
article that appeared in the November/December 2011 inChemistry
(pages 8–10). To access the article, go to www.acs.org/inChemistry
and click the “Archives” link. That article provides a wealth of information for preparing for all tests, regardless of format.
Before the test
Start early with your review book. Each spring I give my students the standardized ACS Organic Chemistry exam for their
final exam, and I always make it a point to alert students
about this months in advance, at the start of the fall semester.