Top 5 Tips for Taking Reading Tests

Updated on December 22, 2017
Kayla Sulpizio profile image

Kayla enjoys the English language and helping others improve in it. She likes to proofread others' work and give advice whenever she can.

Bubble fill test with a pencil
Bubble fill test with a pencil | Source

Reading Tests

Reading tests can be a real pain to get through. They range from small tests over an English unit to the state standardized tests, some of which are timed. Each test may consist of:

  • Multiple choice
  • Writing responses
  • Prompted writing essays

These factors are stressful to think about and usually cause students to avoid reading altogether. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be like this. There’s a much easier way to go about reading tests without the constant thought of stress or pressure. With that being said, here are my top 5 tips for taking reading tests.

Before the Test

If you are in search of an immediate answer and don’t have time to read through the whole article, then here are the 5 tips I will be discussing:

  1. Read with forced enthusiasm
  2. Give your eyes a break
  3. Read the questions first
  4. Take deep breaths
  5. Make notations

Most reading tests start off with a long passage to read and are followed by a series of questions for that passage. This will be the style of test that I’ll address.

Before I get into the 5 tips, let’s talk about what you should do before taking a test. It is important to do these things before taking a reading test:

  1. Get rest
  2. Eat a balanced breakfast
  3. Use peppermint spray
  4. Go over key subjects that confused you

These tips may sound familiar; many people have stressed these at least once in their life. Just because they are common phrases, doesn’t mean they are any less important.

Girl falls asleep on desk with laptop open
Girl falls asleep on desk with laptop open | Source

Get Rest

Getting rest is beneficial for your body and increases focus dramatically. Sleep improves memory, focus, and learning abilities during the day. Brains require a lot of energy through cells in order to recall information and deliver it effectively. During sleep, the brain makes pathways that hold new information for learning the next day. Without sleep, it is nearly impossible to make these pathways.

Sleep deficiency can cause micro-sleep. Micro-sleep is when you fall asleep when you’re still awake. For example, you may be in the middle of that important reading test when suddenly, you can’t remember anything you just read. This is called micro-sleep. It can cause attention problems which may cause the brain to lose information. That’s the last thing anyone wants to happen on their test!

Balanced Breakfast with granola and fruit
Balanced Breakfast with granola and fruit | Source

Eat a Balanced Breakfast

Eating a balanced breakfast is a valuable asset for brain focus. There are a handful of students who don’t eat breakfast before going to school; you’re probably one of them. This rant has been around for years, but I can not stress this enough. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Meal portions throughout the day should go in this order:

  1. Breakfast—biggest meal
  2. Lunch —medium sized meal
  3. Dinner—smallest meal

The nutrients human bodies get from breakfast is enough to power through the day. There are several things that give your body the energy needed to stay focused on that important test. The body stores glucose (glycogen) for energy. After a good night’s rest, glycogen levels are low, which means energy levels are also low. When you eat breakfast, glycogen levels are restored and allow full energy use for your brain. Breakfast carries an abundance of minerals that also aid in brain functionality. Some minerals help fight illnesses and others aid in bodily functions. All of this requires energy which is easily obtainable through breakfast.

Use Peppermint Spray

Spraying peppermint spray just before a test is crucial. Peppermint oil is known to increase focus and overall alertness. The product is easy to obtain. Local supermarkets tend to have them in the pharmaceutical area. Specialty stores that carry natural remedies and healing herbs will also have peppermint oil. If these options aren’t available to you, then my suggestion is to go to Amazon. Amazon sells peppermint oil for as low as $6.

After you have purchased the essential oil, dump the contents into a small, plastic spray bottle. Then, simply spray the oil directly onto the back of the neck. If you don’t have a spray bottle available, rubbing the oil on the back of the neck will work just as well. Alternatively, sucking on a peppermint during the test can also get the job done.

Guy studies on desk surrounded by books
Guy studies on desk surrounded by books | Source

Go Over Key Subjects

Going over the hardest information before a reading test will help immensely. I suggest going over the information before you sleep AND before the test. Understanding confusing subjects before you sleep will make your brain process it more during sleep. The brain is in its most active state when you’re asleep. Reviewing these terms before a test will jog your memory from the previous night, thus further improving your chances of passing.

Now that you understand what to do before a test, what should you do during a test?

Read With Forced Enthusiasm

Reading with forced enthusiasm will help with focus. Most students feel reading tests are boring due to the content of the passages. The tests don’t typically have “exciting” stories to read. Instead, the passages are made up of:

  • Historical events
  • Expository writings
  • Documentaries
  • Plays
  • Poems

Each genre can get extremely boring to read and cause frustration or lack of focus. The key to staying awake during these passages is to read with forced enthusiasm. When you read boring material in your head, the tone is most likely monotoned. The brain needs something exciting to capture its attention, so make the passage exciting. Instead of reading in a monotone voice, try reading in an enthusiastic voice. Imagine every sentence with an exclamation point at the end of it and see how fast your tone changes. Adding emphasis to certain words helps the brain catch on to important details. For example:

Abraham Lincoln wore a black tuxedo to his inauguration in 1861. This sounds very boring and monotone. Let’s spice it up a bit.

Abraham Lincoln wore a [black tuxedo?!] (no way!) to his inauguration in 1861! The exclamation points make the sentence sound more fun. If you manage to make yourself laugh by doing this to different sentences, tests will become a lot easier to understand.

Blue green eye ball with long eye lashes
Blue green eye ball with long eye lashes | Source

Give Your Eyes a Break

It is important to give your eyes a break every 20 minutes or so. Reading tests are almost always black and white, including the pictures. When the eyes are pressured to focus on text with the same color, size, and font, they start to hurt. Pain in the eyes causes loss of focus and could result in serious health issues. To avoid this problem, simply look away from the test every 20 minutes for a while. This allows your eyes to get back to normal. Eyes get tired when reading because they are constantly moving across the page. The muscles get tired from so much movement. On top of that, the brain is also hard at work comprehending and translating sentences to your benefit. These two elements combined will naturally cause tiredness. However, if your eyes get a break every 10-20 minutes, the muscles won’t have to work as hard (reducing sleepiness).

Read the Questions First

“Read the questions first,” is a common phrase often heard amongst teachers. Teachers and students have split opinions on this phrase. I highly recommend reading the questions first for several reasons. Reading the questions gives you a general idea of what to look for while reading the passage. Don’t dwell too much on the questions, just briefly read over them. Your brain will take care of the complicated stuff. The questions will get pushed into the subconscious during reading. You’ll start to notice important details popping up here and there. After reading, the brain will recall more information than usual. The questions may start to make more sense.

Take Deep Breaths

Take deep breaths during the test, especially when frustration starts to settle in. Deep breaths help cells carry more oxygen to the brain. This process calms the brain, increases alertness, and aids in bodily functions. Whenever you feel the need for a break, breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth about 10 times. Calmness will start to settle in at around the 5th breath (depending on the person). Deep breathing helps the brain comprehend questions that don't make sense.

Make Notations

This last tip is one that nobody wants to hear. Make notations on your test. Teachers stress this tip quite a lot. When you make notations, it makes evidence easier to find during the questions.

  • Write a small summary about the paragraph next to each paragraph in the passage
  • Highlight any grammatical errors in the paper
  • Write the definition of underlined words

Reading tests will often underline words that will be in the questions. Write the definition of that word next to it. These notations are guaranteed to make the test easier. The paraphrasing will help you find the right evidence for a question, highlighting grammatical errors will help you answer the grammatical portion of the test, and writing the definitions of underlined words will help you answer the definition portions of the test.


Now that the tips are covered, what should you do after the test?

Go home and sleep.

Thank you for reading this article, and I hope I helped in some way. A lot of research went into this to give you the best content. I guarantee you will ace that test!


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