Last Updated On: September 15th, 2020
As test-makers adjust to the new realities of COVID-19, some tests, including the AP tests and the GRE, have moved to a proctored at-home testing model. How can you make sure you do your best at this type of testing format? Here are some tips:
Make sure your computer has all of the software and technology needed to handle the test. The test’s website should offer tools to explore this ahead of time. (The College Board has promised to release more information soon about what’s needed for the AP tests later this month.) If you have to borrow a device for the test, try to practice and become comfortable with it ahead of time. Some schools and testing organizations offer resources to students who don’t have the right technology to test; look into those options early to allow as much time as possible to get used to the device.
Try to resolve Internet connection issues ahead of time. “Fixing the Internet” is easier said than done, especially with connections overloaded right now, but there are several steps that might be helpful. If your wireless is acting up, you might purchase a cable and adaptor to plug directly into the modem. If you have better luck using your phone as a hot spot, you might consider purchasing extra data before the test. Some schools might even open up socially distanced classrooms or libraries for students who can’t get a good connection at home.
Take the official tutorial or a practice test before your test day. Most test makers publish a tutorial on their website that demonstrates how the electronic test works. Many also offer one or more practice tests in the electronic format, which you should definitely take advantage of. Most tests also allow you to complete a tutorial right before the timer starts. Even if you feel confident you know the program, it’s worthwhile to take a few minutes before test day to ensure you do.
Complete practice tests in the same format as the real test. If digital/online practice tests are available, use those instead of paper tests. If only paper tests are available or you can’t use a computer for practice, write down your work on scratch paper and leave the test blank, since you can’t write on the screen. Once you begin taking practice tests at home, use our proctored videos to help track time and pace yourself! They’re free and accessible here: LA Tutors Proctored Videos
Become familiar with the format and content of the online test. For some tests, the online version almost exactly matches the paper test. For others, though, such as this year’s AP tests, the format has changed significantly.
Review and organize your notes for open-note tests. The College Board has announced that its AP tests this year will be open-note, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be easier. Open-note tests require you to come in with strong comprehension of the content and be able to synthesize facts in new ways; if you simply copy the information in your notes, you’re unlikely to pass. Organizing and reviewing your notes should already be part of your study plan. Since you have the advantage of being able to look up information, you should take extra care to make sure everything is neat and organized for quick access. Many students find that in the process of reviewing and organizing their notes, they learn the information well enough that they don’t even need the notes.
Consider improving your typing skills. If you’re typing isn’t up to speed (literally), a standardized test can be a good incentive to improve it. Even if you have the option to hand write, a fast typist can usually work more quickly, allowing more time for planning, revising, and proofreading. There are good typing programs online, including free programs, and a little time spent each day on keyboarding skills can reap benefits beyond the test.
Get used to writing without spelling and grammar check. Many students (and grown-ups) have grown so used to computer assistance and auto-correct that they plow through compositions with little regard for writing conventions. The word processing programs in standardized tests, however, usually turn off these useful tools and require students to do their own proofreading. If you’ve grown to rely on electronic help, you should consider turning off spelling and grammar alerts (those red and blue underlines), trying your best to proofread on your own first, and then running the check to see which errors you missed during practice.
Don’t even think about cheating! While it might seem like an online test invites students to cheat, test makers have clear rules and take cheating very seriously. One common form of cheating, copying and pasting from the Internet, is easy to detect with a simple Internet search. Online proctors also have ways to detect students who receive outside assistance. As academic conditions are less than ideal right now, most colleges will be understanding of a low score. Cheating or attempting to cheat, however, won’t only disqualify you from that particular test, but will likely destroy your chances of admission.
Fortunately, with proper preparation, you can ace a test taken at home on your computer in the same way you can master a test from a proctored classroom.