Are You a Poor Test Taker? Here’s How to Do Well on Exams

Cameron Devall
Cameron Devall

Cameron began his career as an English language teacher. After graduating from Heythrop College of Philosophy and Theology, University of London, he continued on to teach in Indonesia and Russia. Today, he fulfills his true passion by writing.

The developments in education in recent years have been phenomenal. Classrooms have gone from lecture halls to spaces that engage all types of learners. Thanks to Neil Fleming’s VARK model of Student Learning, we have now understood that students learn in different ways. So why isn’t their knowledge being assessed in different ways as well? In the meantime, we can help. For those of you who feel like a poor test taker under standard circumstances, we have some advice.

Though there is a related debate regarding this subject about standardized testing, it may be unavoidable for some. Many students are still required to take the SAT or ACT in order to gain college admission. Until the debate about the value of the testing has concluded, the tests are still there; and students still need to perform well, even if they do not take tests well.

Being Prepared

For poor test takers, all sit-down assessments are going to be stressful. But they don’t have to be painful if you take a few precautions and do the research to get results. The first, and most daunting task for preparing your college application will be to take the SAT or ACT.

A standardized test may not be the ideal way to begin your journey towards secondary education; especially if testing is difficult for you. However, if you schedule to take three exams, some of the pressure will be removed. This is not the recommended number of exams, as most publications and educational institutions recommend no more than two times. Nonetheless, it is necessary for students that get nervous or panic when it comes to any test.

The three chances should be divided as follows: two in the junior year and one in the senior year. This will allow for time between the tests as well as a time to receive test scores and decide if another test is even necessary.


Groups like Cates Tutoring however recommend taking the test as many times as the student feels comfortable. This takes away the one chance aspect of normal testing and allows the student to know that there are more opportunities to do well in the future. The stress that is eliminated knowing that there are more chances ahead can mean being relaxed and getting a higher score as a result. 

An obvious benefit is that your chances of getting a better score increase. Though this is not proven for the average student, bad test takers should certainly take advantage of the limitless attempts, though three is the maximum recommended simply based on the timetable.

The second time you take the test you will already be familiar with the test itself and the process but still have nerves, making it more emotionally like what other students would feel on their first attempt.

It will show you where you made mistakes in terms of preparation. If you had a strong score in one subject and lower scores in the others then those are the areas that should be focused on in studying. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses is key in doing better at another attempt.

Don’t Panic

Bad test takers don’t have to panic even if their three attempts resulted in lower than average scores. A recent study has shown that students with normal GPAs and a nice list of activities and a low test score will be just as successful in college as a student with the same academic record and achievements and higher test scores. In addition, there is a new trend in a few universities where they do not require students to submit their scores. Having a low test score will not ruin your chances of going to college, which is something all SAT and ACT test takers should remember, those who are good and bad at test taking alike.

Questions? Let us know!