Many people think taking a practice test at home is easy. You sit down, take the test, and you’re done. Right? Well, even if your concentration skills are well honed and you can sit in place for three plus hours, you’ll still have to contend with the numerous distractions—was that just a text I got?
But there is a lot more to taking a practice test than simply completing every question: you have to learn from the process. Let’s say you’ve finished grading each section and you’ve tabulated your score. Sure, take a quick stretch break (though don’t check that text!) You want to get right back to focusing on and understand what you missed. To do so, follow these steps.
1. Don’t look at the right answer
The reason is you want to try to figure out why you missed the question in the first place; and you want a second shot. Though it might not be easy, figuring something out that initially eluded you will help you understand the question at a deeper level. By looking at the right answer of the bat, you never struggled to get the question right, and you therefore won’t learn as much. Of course, if you can’t figure it go to step #2.
What if I made a careless error? If so, don’t just think, “I made a careless error.” Be more specific and think about exactly what led you to the careless errors. Were you so busy doing calculations that you forgot that the question asked for the ‘x’ value, not the ‘y’ value? Well, that’s a very different careless error from rushing through a large graph and looking at the wrong column or row. The key is that the more aware you are of what led to the careless error, the more likely you’ll avoid a similar careless error in the future.
2. If you can’t figure out the right answer, look at the explanations
Often the explanation will clearly illuminate what you missed. Sometimes, though, the explanation will only mystify you more. If so, don’t try rereading the explanations countless times (doing so might just make you more frustrated).
3. Think about ways to avoid similar mistakes in the future
Once you are done going through the test, write down the areas you need to improve in. Be as specific possible. Don’t write: “I need to be better at math”. Instead, write something like, “I need to understand trigonometry ratios better”. If you made certain errors such as reading too fast, then write down: “Need to work on pacing by understanding the main gist the first time around”. Again, the more aware you are of where you are struggling, the easier it will be for you to improve.
4. Plan your future studying
A practice test can be a useful way of determining the areas you need to work on. Planning your study time around these weak spots will help you on the next practice.