Test-Taking Tips

Recently, our friends at the Elvish Farmer blog had a post with some sweet test-taking tips. We’re republishing them here with the permission of that blog.

While I have written in the past about the process I use when going into the situation of testing a judge, I have never actually described how I handle taking the exams myself. Part of staying sharp on rules and policy should involve occasionally revisiting old exams and trying your hand at some of the practice ones as well. In fact, some judge levels require you to retake exams at intervals to maintain certification at those levels.

Personally, I’ve had a long and difficult history with the judge exams. Initially, I was of the mindset that they are overly specific and don’t test the knowledge judges really need to answer real-life calls. Over a long period of time and study, however, I have come to realize that the exams are actually finely tuned to reflect the level of knowledge and understanding required by judges at the appropriate testing levels. This mindset shift did not come easily for me. I hope that with some of the tips below, you can avoid struggling as much as possible.

The point of this post is to cover some best practices I’ve figured out myself or have been shown throughout the many, many times I’ve tested. If you have other ideas/tips for this list, please comment and let me know!

The Non-Exhaustive List of Tips for Taking Exhausting Exams

  • STUDY!
    • This may seem like a simple point, but the single-most important thing you can do to ensure you pass an exam is to know the material.
    • Don’t focus on corner-case topics. Stick to the fundamentals. See this post for some tips.
  • Don’t grind the exams.
    • Taking a Hard Practice Exam daily may sound like a great way to get geared up for actual testing, but I assure you, it is not.
    • Take an exam once a week, or better yet, once a month. Learn from and study the areas you missed. Take the time needed to truly learn the material, even those you got correct but were unsure of.
  • Boxes vs circles
    • The exam uses circles or boxes next to the possible answers.
    • A circle indicates that there is only a single correct answer.
    • A box indicates multiple answers (or none) may be correct.
  • Identify AP and NAP (cards or marking the test directly)
    • On the exams, “A” names are active player, and “N” names are non-active player.
    • On the exam itself, I mark each card with an A or an N to denote who controls it. I also “create” tokens and do the same, simply by adding a box on the question with the token name.
  • Before beginning the exam itself, write down the Layers and the Steps to Casting on the scrap paper you have.
    • This way you only need to remember it once, before you start, and can just refer back to it as needed.
  • RTFC
    • Read the “friendly” card. Seriously. Read it again. I almost always miss a question or two simply by missing an ability printed on a card.
  • Read the question carefully. Make sure you know what, exactly, is being asked.
    • This is another “no-brainer” that can often cause trip-ups. Make sure you fully understand what is being asked before you dive into the answers.
  • Include tokens when identifying cards, as they aren’t otherwise shown.
    • I mentioned this above under AP/NAP, but make sure you have a way to account for tokens. They are very often important to a question, and are not otherwise shown on the exam.
  • Take the practice exams on paper if you can, and mimic the real thing.
    • The closer to the actual test-taking conditions that you can give yourself during practice exams, the better you’ll be preparing for the real deal.
  • Underline or circle the part of an answer that makes it wrong.
    • When taking the exam, as you rule out answers as being incorrect, make sure you indicate what, exactly, makes them incorrect. This will help immensely when you go back through to recheck your answers.
  • Go back and revisit any questions you weren’t sure about.
    • Make sure you take the time you need to revisit problem questions again. The physical exams aren’t timed, so take advantage of that to the fullest, by checking your work.
  • Take the exam once without marking the answer sheet (mark your answers on another sheet of paper, or on the side of the question itself).
    • Then go retake it once complete, and answer with the sheet. Compare your two answers before handing it in. This may seem tedious, but it can help eliminate the “stupid” mistakes.
    • Some even suggest taking the exam the first time without looking at the answers at all. Simply write your answer on the side, then go back and look which choice your answer applies to.
  • Try to ensure you have as optimal conditions as possible to actually take the exam.
    • Often this will be at an event, so there isn’t much you can do, but make an effort to find a quiet-ish place if possible.
  • Get sleep the night before.
    • Being well-rested is very important for your brain to function at peak capacity.
  • Have coffee/food/drink available or consumed before the exam.
    • At the very least have water available to you.
  • Review the forum topics in advance

In conclusion, take as much time as you need preparing for the exam, so that when you actually get there to test, you have done as much as you feasibly can to ensure your own success. Don’t take these exams lightly, even the practice ones. Until next week, Keep watching for stories to share, and happy test-taking!

For more content from “The Elvish Farmer,” please visit their website.