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Standardized test definitely don’t look fun but once you know the tricks to beating them, they can be. Image Source

Okay… I’m admitting it. Please don’t lock me in the loony bin. (At least for this comment.)

Standardized tests are better than non-standardized tests.

Doing well in school is a balancing act between the subjective and the objective.

Objective, Simple, Unambiguous

One chunk of school is your ability to learn facts. You need to know how to memorize. You need to know how to follow instructions. People talk a lot about understanding but most students don’t appreciate the simplicity and effectiveness of just remembering stuff. It’s a science.

Simplified version of how to remember:
Spaced repetition + active recall = Success

There is very little room to screw this up. The most likely way you can screw it up is by not doing it at all.

Memorizing objective facts is simple. Standardized tests focus on these facts. They avoid as much interpretation as possible. That simplifies your strategy.

Then comes the other chunk of school…

  • What are the teacher’s perceptions of you?
  • What does this question really mean?
  • What answer is the teacher looking for?
  • Can I convince the teacher I know something I don’t know?

Multiple choice questions have a right or wrong response. When there is any room for interpretation by the teacher, you need to account for hundreds of extra questions. Even in subjects like math, you’ll often have teachers interpreting how much credit you get for a “partially correct” answer.

There is unlimited complexity to scoring high based on subjective judgements. The approach you need to take is ambiguous. No matter how well you focus on your strategy, you could still get graded when the teacher is in a bad mood.

Standardized test try to control for this. That makes taking them a whole lot more straight-forward.

Why Most Students Hate Standardized Testing

If life were like standardized tests then life would be a lot more boring. Image Source

Life is not like a standardized test.

Your friends didn’t decide they wanted to be friends with you based on standardized tests. They didn’t verify you guys have similar opinions on 32 key issues before agreeing to the friendship. They just kind of judged you while you kind of judged them.

Your future employer is never going to put a standardized test in front of you to decide your bonus. They’re going to look at subjective matters. If they like you more (even if it’s for bad reasons) you can expect better results.

Subjective judgement is the standard procedure in life. It comes naturally. You don’t need to learn any special strategies to do well with it. Most people just get it.

Standardized testing is not natural.

It’s about as artificial as you can get. It’s commoditized knowledge. It’s thinking inside the box. It’s born to be boring. At no point in history has a cavelady ever thought: “should I eat berry A, B, C, or D?” Instead she would have thought, “Oh cool! A berry. I’m gonna eat that and hope I don’t die.”

Once you have a solid approach to standardized tests they become easier (and, even, more fun.)

How To Beat Standardized Tests

When you study unneccesary details you’re wasting time you could be studying important details. Image Source

1. Study Only What You Need To

Most standardized tests have very clear expectations.

For popular tests like the SATs, thousands of resources exist explaining the intricacies of what subjects are covered. For individual class tests you may get some kind of a study guide. Worst case scenario, you can keep track of all the covered topics in class and guess, pretty safely, those are the main topics covered on the test.

There is unlimited details that you can learn. For that reason, you need to define a clear cut-off point for everything you want to learn. Without that cut-off point you risk:

  • Getting overwhelmed
  • Studying too deeply into a single aspect
  • Missing important sections
  • Wasting a ton of time studying tangents

By defining your topic clearly, you allow yourself to appreciate the full benefits of memorization. Just memorizing the important information is usually enough.

If you know the facts then you can usually work out the understanding on the test. You can logically put facts together. It’s a lot harder to guess random facts based on a familiarity.

2. Familiarize, Memorize, Then Understand

In other words: Listen to the lecture. Learn flashcards. Think about it a bunch. Image Source

I added a new word to my typical explanation of this. I wanted to clarify based on some of the comments I got.

Memorization is huge but you can’t know what you memorize without being familiar with the subject.

The first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with the subject of the test. For most major tests, that’s just showing up to school and giving it at least a little bit of your attention. For individual class tests, showing up to the class is usually enough.

Once you work out the important details to learn, memorize them.

Once you memorize the important details, it may be worth trying to understand them. This often depends on the complexity of the subject. The problem with understanding is that it’s almost impossible to define success or failure. That makes it hard for me to suggest. (That is also why standardized tests struggle to test it. Memorization is a whole lot easier to test.)

If you want to completely understand understanding then read How To Know When You Really Understand It in our members only area. You can join the community for free right now.

3. Know The Rules

The rules of the test should dictate your strategy.

Think simplicity with standardized testing. The harder you think about it, the harder it’s going to get. Image Source

If the test takes away points from wrong answers then you need to account for that. If the test doesn’t then it would be crazy to not guess when you don’t know.

Small rule changes can make a big difference in your behavior.

This is one area where outside resources about the test can make a big difference.
(And… dammit… read the instructions. This might go best with the next one.)

4. Don’t Overthink It

If you’re curious if you should eat before you take the test then you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re wondering if you should go to bed early before the test then you’re doing it wrong.

If you think your life depends on this test then you’re horribly miserably devastatingly wrong.


Why I Love Standardized Tests – And How To Beat Them

Being prepared is simple.

Do what you always do. The more you try to adjust your life to do better, the more you’re going to stress yourself out. That will cost you more than the minor inconveniences caused by underthinking it.

The major reason students struggle with standardized tests is their lack of a memorization focus. The second big reason is that they psych themselves up about them.

You’re better than that.

You’ve got this test under control. Now let yourself feel that.

What do you do to prepare for tests? Tell your story below.

Why I Love Standardized Tests – And How To Beat Them

A B&C Students Guide To Mercilessly Crushing A Students At Their Own Game (While Laughing Your Way Towards The Ivy-League)

Are you smart but getting meh grades?

The smartest students are often the ones the school system leaves behind. It’s easy to motivate a half-wit (or even almost-wit – like a horse with a carrot dangled in it’s face to get it running. Giddy-up horsey!

You would never fall for that, right? Then this is for you.

It’s easy to procrastinate when you’re getting a raw deal. That’s the smart thing to do.

Academics is a game – and its prizes are good. Really good! There is more to the story than that though. What do you have to do to get that prize? And that matters even more than the prize. Study 18 hours a day for straight-A’s and a high-paying job someday in the distant future? Ughhh… Not me. That’s for sure.

I scored near the top of my college Engineering class while studying less than 15 minutes a morning. And seriously, I don’t sound like a super genius, do I?

Hint: I had barely scraped a 1.0 GPA in high school and I wasn’t skipping and having fun with friends either – I was… dare I say… trying my best.

Big Tip: trying doesn’t matter unless you’re experimenting or already using an effective strategy. Trying without an effective strategies is a waste that can plop your grades in the stinker. First step – STOP TRYING with ineffective strategies.

You got that?

Look… I’m a bit crazy. I get it. I’ve read hundreds of books on grades, learning, and memory. I spent sleepless nights studying obscure academic journals. I swear, I even read the book “How To Read A Book” and didn’t have to drink alcohol to do it!


You wanna’ know why?

Don’t tell anyone but… I care. I was emotionally crippled by the school system. I had heartless, lazy, and downright mean teachers (and a couple good ones that couldn’t help.) It took years for me to untangle their mess…

And I went to college and beat them at their own wretched game. Top scores. Easy studying. Time to make friends and impress the ladies. (You know… the important stuff!)

But I know… I wasn’t alone and I know there are others facing similar and worse challenges than I did. And I may be out of the warzone now but I can’t in good conscience leave you behind without my arsenal.

That’s why a decade ago I founded Smart Student Secrets and got link backs from LifeHack, HuffPo, and good college professors with names I can’t pronounce from all over the world that see these strategies crushing every day. But forget about them… the emails I get from grateful students… that’s the stuff a good life is made of.

My newest book is, in my opinion, the best book ever written for students that want to absolutely crush the academic game.

It gets you to focus your energy on the most important aspects of grades – giving you leverage on the system.

It shows you the big painful studying, you’re not benefiting from – that you thankfully get to stop today and forever.

It takes the latest in academic research on memory and puts into your hands, the exact memorization strategies that a Purdue Professor proved can let someone memorize 2.35 things for every one they’re memorizing now.

And this isn’t about “working harder” – and it’s not about “working smarter” either. (I cringe every time I read that phrase.)

It’s about working only when it matters most and creating the habit of motivated and effective learning.

I guarantee this… You can skyrocket your grades with my book while studying less than you ever had to study before. If I’m wrong, send me an email and I’ll refund you – no questions asked.

Please give me the chance to change your life for the better – it’s on me to prove it. What you’re going to do is: click on the link here or below, click “Buy Now”, fill in the boxes, and you’ll get your copy of the book through an instant download.

Get How To Study Happier Here

Warning: Inflation is eating my butt right now. My accountant is saying the prices need to go up to keep up with server costs ASAP or this whole site is in danger. I’m writing this one last message as a last ditch effort to get this book to anyone that wants it. If you want it, do it now while the guarantee and price are still available. You will have it for when you’re ready to start.

Last chance! Don’t miss it at the lowest price and best guarantee I can do.


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9 thoughts on “Why I Love Standardized Tests – And How To Beat Them

  • June 29, 2021 at 4:45 pm

    Thank you for the information I need this kind of help to pass a exam that I have failed 8 times

  • August 1, 2020 at 11:26 pm

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  • November 15, 2019 at 1:44 am

    I seriously appreciate your help. This exta bit of information will undoubtedly be applied.

  • September 29, 2019 at 5:11 am

    I actually liked reading through this blog. Sometimes I discover posts that can make me want to get started on bloggin as well. Thank you!

  • January 8, 2019 at 8:36 pm

    Amazing! This blog looks exactly like my old one! It’s on a completely different topic but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Outstanding choice of colors!

  • February 20, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    For me, preparing for tests is all about putting the time in.

    I know you’re always talking about studying less but more efficiently and I try to do that but there is a minimum amount of time I need to learn and I try to pull off that minimum time regardless of whatever comes up. If I want to study for 4 hours for the test then I find some way to squeeze that in. Ideally I do it over multiple sessions. If I fail to then I cram 4 hours the night before. As long as I get those 4 hours in, I’m pretty comfortable when the test comes.

    Does that sound right?

    • February 20, 2017 at 6:01 pm

      You already said my major concern 🙂

      Naturally, it’s best to focus on efficiency more than time. You sound like you have a solid habit. If you’re getting the grades you want then it might not be worth the trouble of changing it.

      Cramming is less efficient than studying in short sessions. That doesn’t mean you should never do it. Here is where I get concerned: Does knowing you can cram later decrease your chances of studying in short sessions? I recommend never cramming (even if it costs you points) because it encourages a bad habit. Bad habits tend to produce subpar results.

      Are you happy with your results? If so then you aren’t getting subpar results (maybe suboptimal.) I see no reason to change it if you’re satisfied. If you’re not happy with your grades then give my strategies a shot.

      Or just try to cram right

  • February 20, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    I love this article! It’s awesome.

    Now I just have to learn not to overthink it! haha

    • February 20, 2017 at 5:53 pm

      That is tough.

      The best strategy for me is to speed everything up. I try to work at a pace fast enough that I can’t think too much. (Then I go back a second time to quickly check everything I did.)


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