Chapter 5


How to Solve Test Problems



How to Solve Test Problems

How to Solve

Test Problems

Prepare for the Exam

Test taking is a critical part of advancement

in school. There are certain planning requirements

even before the test begins. One of the rules is to

get a good night’s sleep. Although you know this rule,

how do you sleep when the most important test of

your life is coming up? Well there are some

things you can do.

already read and reread a few days before the exam.

review them easily.

other major stresses – like a first date – so that you

really have only the test in mind.

of days before the test.

taking the test.

through your notes.





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How to Solve Test Problems

Read the Directions

The directions are usually on the top of the first page of each section of the test. They should clearly state the objectives and time constraints.

Some standardized tests will penalize you for guessing. This means that your total number of wrong answers are multiplied by some ratio and then subtracted from your total number of right answers. If the directions indicate you will be penalized for guessing, a good clarification might be "How much will I be penalized?" Is a point subtracted for each wrong answer from your total number of right answers? Or is a part of a point for each wrong answer subtracted from your total number of right answers? Sometimes this information can be learned prior to the exam. In any case, you need to know and should ask if you have any doubts.

If you are instructed to mark all correct answers rather than the single best answer, the elimination of false answers in each answer set should be your strategy. Whereas normally we search for the correct answer, here we would search for the false statements. For example:

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How to Solve Test Problems

Question: What city(s) is/are in California?

  1. San Diego
  2. New York
  3. Fresno
  4. Denver
  5. Barstow

The correct answers are a, c, and e. Did you

eliminate b and d before choosing a, c, and e?

In answering this kind of question, you should

first eliminate the false answers. If you go through

a few questions and find only one right answer to

each question, suspect the directions were misleading.

Change your strategy. Instead of first eliminating

false statements, start searching for the true statements(s).

How to Read Test Questions

Word problems are those which require reading text

during the exam process. You then demonstrate

proficiency or understanding by choosing correct answers.

The test may be multiple choice, fill in the blank,

true/false, or short essay.

The format for most text problems is fairly standard.

A long block of often difficult text is presented and

then several questions are asked.

Usually the test is divided into sections. When the test

begins, examine the entire test. One of the best

strategies in test taking is to start with the easy problems

first. By answering this way you:

Find the section of the test that you are most familiar

with and answer the questions. Then go to your next

best section and answer the questions. Continue working

your way through the test saving the hardest part for last.

By following this procedure, you will save time for the

hardest part because of how fast and easy the first

sections were. Remember, you must complete at least 90% of the




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How to Solve Test Problems

test correctly to receive an A. so pace your test answering to ensure that you finish the exam.

Before you read the text part of the test skim over the questions. Hold the questions in your mind as you read the text. Read the entire text. Even if you spot answers, do not return to the question until you have read the entire text. Sometimes information will follow which changes your understanding of the text. If you are allowed to mark the test material, then bullet • or underline answers as you find them.

Be careful when answering questions on text that deals with subjects you are very good in. it might actually be a handicap as you will anticipate answers on the basis of your priori knowledge rather than the information presented. This can happen. Sometimes the text will state something you know to be false. Then a questions will be asked concerning that same incorrect information. If the text is clear, then the answer must correspond to the text.

For example: America’s favorite pastime is baseball. One of the rules is two strikes and the batter is out; another rule is five balls and the batter advances to first base.

Questions: How many strikes in baseball to get a batter out?

    1. 1
    2. 2
    3. 3
    4. 4

According to the paragraph, the correct answer is b. In an actual test, you should choose b. Select your answer based upon the actual text.









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How to Solve Test Problems

How to Use Your Test Taking Time

If the test is fifty minutes long and has 50 questions,

simple math would say spend one minute on each

question. Unfortunately, standardized tests are

usually not that simple. Factors include:

Consider all these factors when taking the test. Start

with what you consider the easiest section. Make

sure you complete the section fast enough to allow

time for the harder sections. Remember, if you

spend too much time answering the easy questions,

you might fail the test just because you did

not answer enough questions.

How to Answer the Questions

Stay with the same text material until you

have either run out of time or have answered

all the questions to the best of your ability. Do

not jump around from section to section.

There will be some questions you cannot answer.

For these questions, skim over the answers (where

they are offered) and go back to the text and scan

for keywords or phrases. Eliminate answers that are

wrong. If you cannot eliminate all but one answer,

you much decide whether or not you should guess.

The decision to guess should be based on whether you will be penalized for wrong answers.

If you are penalized for wrong answers, use the

following rule. If you can eliminate three of the

five possible answerschoose the best remaining answer. If the






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How to Solve Test Problems

remaining two answers seem evenly possible, then go ahead and guess one of the two. You have improved your odds from one in five to one in two. With 50-50 odds you should guess.

If there is no penalty for guessing, eliminate whatever incorrect answers you can and then guess the same letter throughout the test. The reason for choosing the same letter on all pure guesses is that large standardized tests have their answers generated randomly. By picking one letter, you ensure that 20% (on a test with a – e) correct guess rate. If you changed your letter randomly, it is possible you could guess yourself out of the random answer. This method should definitely be used when answering test questions on material you haven’t even looked at.

Try to complete each section within your self determined time limit. If you cannot, guess on a basis of the above and proceed to the next section. Remember to mark your guesses (perhaps with a ? or a •) in case you have extra time at the end of the test to reexamine them.

How to Translate Text into an Equation

Many text problems involve solving an algebraic equation. For example, if the text lists a series of items and their prices and asks you for the total, you would have to add up all the different prices. Some text problems might go a step further and require you to find an unknown. For example, you are given four tests scores and need to compute a fifth which would give a stated average. For example, (65 + 72 + 85 + 74 + x)/5 = 78. These kinds of questions are called first degree questions with a single variable. Because this level of math is so prevalent in daily life, it is included in this manual

The following steps represent a means of solving virtually every single variable first degree word problem.








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How to Solve Test Problems

  1. Let x represent the unknown solution.

  2. Write expressions in terms of x to represent other

    unknown quantities.

  3. Translate the sentence(s) into an equation.

  4. Solve the equation.

  5. Check the solution by substituting it into the

original problem.

For instance:

Twice the sum of a number and 5 is 40. What is the


First, assign x to be the number.

Second, write expression

2 (x + 5).

Third, translate to the equation.

2 (x + 5) = 40.

Fourth, solve the equation.

To solve any algebraic equation, use the following 4 steps.

Step 1. Clear any fractions by multiplying by LCM

(Lowest Common Multiple)

Step 2. Clear parenthesis.

Step 3. Do +,- until the varibalbe and its coefficient

are isolated on one side of the equation.

Step 4. Divide by the coefficient.

Following these steps (since there are no fractions), first

clear parenthesis to get:

2x + 10 = 40.

Then subtract 10 from both sides to get:

2x = 30.

Then divide by the coefficient 2 to get the answer.

x = 15.



Practical Academic Study Skills Page 47


Sample ELM Questions