How to Avoid Getting F's on Tests

Three Methods:Preparing for TestsTaking TestsGetting Help

Tests can be very stressful, especially when you feel a lot of pressure to do well and are worried about failing. Although most of us will have to take a lot of tests in our lives, there are steps we can take to make sure we are as successful as possible on exams. To avoid getting F’s on tests, prepare in advance, use effective test-taking strategies, and get help so you don’t feel alone.

Method 1
Preparing for Tests

  1. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 1
    Go to class and complete your work. One of the best ways to avoid getting F’s on tests is to attend class and complete your work on time. Tests are usually based off of material discussed in class or from previous assignments, and if you don’t keep up, it will be hard to do well.
    • Before the test, teachers often discuss the format of the exam or give advice on how to study, and if you’re not present you could miss crucial information.
    • If you have to miss class or can’t turn in an assignment, ask a classmate or friend to borrow notes. Also, try to complete the assignment even if you can’t receive credit so you’re better prepared for the test.
  2. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 2
    Take good notes. Writing out information will help you remember it, so taking good notes in class or when you’re studying will help ensure you get a great grade on the test.[1]
    • Having clearly written and well-organized notes will also make studying a lot easier.
    • If you already have notes from class, try recopying them before the exam. This will be a more effective study strategy than simply re-reading them.
  3. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 3
    Get organized. Organizing your study materials will make it a lot easier to prepare for the test. It also helps you feel more in control, confident, and ready to tackle the exam.
    • Use a binder or folder to keep track of and group your notes.
    • A planner or calendar can help you remember test dates and due dates, and you can also schedule regular study sessions.
  4. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 4
    Learn about the format of the test. Familiarizing yourself with the format of the test will help you be as prepared as possible when you sit down to take it. Take the time to do research and ask your teacher questions about the test format.
    • If this is a standardized exam that many people all over your state or country take, look up some information online about the test. Pay attention to the type of questions they ask, the time limits, and look for any specific test-taking tips or resources that might be available.
    • If it's an exam for a specific class, ask the teacher if they can tell you about the format of the exam. They might be willing to give you some details
  5. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 5
    Abandon negative thoughts. Taking tests is stressful, especially when you feel a lot of pressure to do well, but negative thoughts can limit your ability to successfully study for the test. Try to push these negative thoughts aside, and replace them with more positive ones.[2]
    • Instead of focusing on how you are going to fail the exam or fail the class if you don’t do well on the test, remind yourself that you’ve been working hard and preparing. Tell yourself that you’re going to do well.
    • Try visualizing yourself easily answering the questions on the test.
  6. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 6
    Don’t cram. Although it can be tempting to wait until the last minute to cram for an exam, it won’t help you learn the material or ace the test. The earlier you begin studying, the more prepared you’ll be for the exam.[3]
    • Studying right before the test often makes you feel more panicked and it limits your ability to learn and correctly recall information.
    • While it might depend on how important the test is and how much material you have to get through, it’s a good idea to start studying at least one week in advance.
    • If it’s a bigger test such as the SAT, ACT, LSAT, or GRE, you will probably want to spend several months preparing.
  7. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 7
    Space out your studying. When you begin studying, the amount of material you have to get through can seem overwhelming. To keep from feeling as stressed out and to make your studying more effective, split your studying up so you are only reviewing small amounts of material at one time.[4]
    • For example, instead of trying to memorize a long list of vocabulary terms or definitions all at once, break up the list and focus on small parts each time you study. You will retain the information better and get through the list much faster.
    • It can also be helpful to switch up the material you are studying. For example, try working one type of math problem during one sitting and then switch to a different type of math problem for your next study session. Your brain has to work harder to decide which strategy to use to solve the problem. Don’t stick to one topic; instead, study a bunch of different material in one sitting.[5]
    • Try to split up your studying into 25 to 50 minute intervals, and take breaks in between. You’ll feel more relaxed while studying and also get through the information more effectively.[6]
    • Education experts describe this technique as “spaced repetition” and have found that it’s much more effective than trying to memorize lots of material all at once.[7]
  8. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 8
    Take regular breaks. Although you might feel like you need to focus exclusively on your studying, research has shown that taking regular breaks will improve your focus when you return to studying and keep you calm before the test.[8][9]
    • While you can choose to do anything you enjoy during your break, researchers have concluded that exercise improves your memory and lowers your blood pressure. Walk, jump rope, dance, or jog during your break and get pumped to ace your test. Yoga has also been shown to improve focus and attention span, which might come in handy when taking a test.
  9. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 9
    Eliminate distractions. Music, phones, and the television can all distract you while you’re studying, so it’s best to eliminate them while you’re preparing for the exam.[10]
    • If you have to listen to music in the background, choose instrumental music or classical music.
    • Turn your phone off or put it in another room so you’re not tempted to text, check or your email, or use social media.
    • If you need the computer to study, disable email alerts, messaging functions, or anything else that might distract you from your goal of doing well on the test.
  10. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 10
    Avoid pulling all-nighters. Although most of us have stayed up all night studying for a test before, it’s not an effective study approach if you want to avoid getting F’s on tests. It will make you feel more anxious, less prepared, and will interfere with your ability to remember the material you stayed up all night studying.[11]
    • Instead of pulling an all nighter, review the material once more before you go to bed, and make sure you get plenty of sleep. Your brain will keep working to remember the information while you are sleeping.
    • One psychology study found that pulling an all-nighter actually hurt your ability to reason and remember information for up to 4 days after you stayed up all night.
  11. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 11
    Study in different places. While you might have a go-to study spot such as the library or your room when preparing for a test, holing up in one location can actually keep you from remembering the information as effectively. So, instead of remaining in one place, switch locations.[12][13]
    • A quiet coffee shop, a bench outside, and an empty classroom are all great places to try.
  12. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 12
    Make up a story. While it might sound silly, telling yourself a crazy or funny story about the material can help you remember it more quickly and clearly. This technique works particularly well for ordered lists, formulas, or anything with an acronym.[14]
    • The story doesn’t have to make sense or be real, it’s just to help you recall the material.
  13. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 13
    Choose the right study method. When preparing for a test, many of us focus on re-reading chapters and highlighting or underlining material. Research indicates, however, that these methods are not as effective as creating flashcards or taking practice tests.
    • Make flashcards with a friend and then quiz each other. You could also ask a parent or sibling to quiz you with the flashcards.
    • If there is a practice test available for the test you are about to take, make sure you take advantage of this resource. Give yourself the appropriate amount of time so you are taking the practice test under the same circumstances that you will take the actual test.
    • If there isn’t a practice test available, try making your own. If you have a general idea of the test’s format, the act of writing and answering the questions will help you learn and retain the information.
  14. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 14
    Read information out loud. When you’re studying for a test, read information out loud. It helps you learn the material more quickly and effectively because you are seeing the information as well as hearing it.
    • Try reading your notes out loud.

Method 2
Taking Tests

  1. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 15
    Get sleep. The night before the test, make sure you get plenty of sleep. Remember, pulling an all-nighter or cramming can actually undermine all your hard work and make you feel more nervous about the test.[15]
  2. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 16
    Eat a balanced meal before the test. Being hungry while trying to take an exam can make it difficult to concentrate and might result in poor performance. Make sure you eat before the test.[16][17][18]
    • Scientists have determined that foods with antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber are brain boosters, so reach for some trail mix, eat oatmeal, grab a piece of fruit, or eat a tuna sandwich before you head in to the exam.
    • Don’t choose something greasy or heavy that’s likely to upset your stomach and make you feel ill in the middle of the exam. Also, avoid overloading on junk food and sugary drinks.
    • A little caffeine can help boost your brain power, but too much will make you feel jittery and anxious during the test, so don’t overdo it.[19]
    • Eating a few minutes before the test might make you feel sleepy and your body will focus more on digestion than thinking, so try to eat a couple hours before the test.[20]
  3. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 17
    Calm pre-test nerves. It’s totally normal to feel nervous before an exam, but anxiety can make it hard to focus on the exam and cause you to panic. To prevent this from happening, try some of these techniques to settle your nerves right before the big test.[21][22]
    • Before the exam begins, try staring at the wall for a few minutes. A simple meditative exercise like this one can help soothe your anxiety.
    • Take a few deep breaths. This can stop your racing thoughts and lower your blood pressure.
    • Chew gum, if allowed, which can relieve anxiety.
    • Bring a snack with you if you’re allowed. It can help you feel more calm and distract you from feeling nervous.
    • Remind yourself that this test is only a small part of your school career, and if doesn’t go well, there will be other opportunities to improve your grade.
    • Think about something positive and fun that you can do when the exam is over. This will be a reward to help get through the exam and keep you motivated.
  4. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 18
    Read the directions carefully. While you might feel rushed when you start the test, don’t dive right in and start answering questions. Take the time to carefully read the directions and make sure you understand how you are supposed to complete the test and respond to the questions.[23]
    • If something is unclear or confusing, don’t be afraid to raise your hand and quietly ask the teacher or test proctor for clarification.
  5. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 19
    Skim through the test. After you read the directions, it’s also important to take a few minutes and skim through the exam. You will get a good idea of how many questions are on the test and what types of questions are on it. This will allow you to pace yourself and finish on time.[24]
    • A good approach is to start with easier questions and then move on to the harder ones that might take more time or make you feel more nervous. This way, you feel more confident when you get to the difficult material and don’t get bogged down or stuck.
  6. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 20
    Write down key information. If there’s something you are worried that you might forget during the test, before you start answering all the questions write it down in the margin of the exam or on scratch paper.[25]
    • This can be especially helpful with dates, formulas, or key terms.
  7. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 21
    Skip questions you aren’t sure about. If there are any questions that you aren’t sure about on the test, mark them with an asterisk or symbol and then move on. You can come back to them after you’ve tackled other questions, and won't waste time.[26]
    • You might think of the answer while you’re working on a different question or it might be easier to recall when you look at it again.
  8. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 22
    Make sure you answer all the questions. While it can be overwhelming and upsetting if you don’t know the answer to a question, make sure you put an answer down. Something is better than nothing, and you won’t lose any credit for attempting the question.
    • You might even guess correctly or receive partial credit for your response, which can help you improve your grade on the exam.
  9. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 23
    Review your answers before you hand it in. If you finish the test with time to spare, don’t throw away the opportunity to check your answers or review your work.
    • You might catch a mistake or be able to improve the wording of a response.
  10. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 24
    Don’t throw your test away. While you might feel like chucking your test and never looking at it again, it’s important to hang on to the test and review it so you can understand what you did right and what you should work on.
    • Make a list of the study strategies seemed to help you, so you can definitely employ these next time. At the same time, write down what didn’t seem to help or what you had a hard time with during the exam so you can improve.
    • If you’re allowed to keep it, your old test can be a useful study tool.
    • Set up a time to meet with your teacher so you can review the test and learn what you can do to improve your performance. They will appreciate that you’re making an effort and want to do well.

Method 3
Getting Help

  1. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 25
    Form a study group or organize a review session. Studying by yourself can be lonely, but you might also find it easy to get distracted. Instead of going it alone, try organizing a study group with your classmates or setting up a review session.[27]
    • You’ll feel less isolated, and chances are good that someone in the group may understand something that you do not or that you can help other people.
    • The act of reviewing the material out loud together will also help you absorb the information.
    • If you organize a review session or study group, make sure you establish guidelines in the beginning so that it is effective. Each person should know what they should do to be ready for the meeting, and you should talk about how you’ll study. Make an agreement to only focus on the material you are reviewing and eliminate distractions.
  2. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 26
    Work with your teacher. If you are struggling to do well on tests, set up a time to talk with your teacher. They might be able to help you identify the problem and adopt more successful preparation and test-taking techniques.[28]
    • They might also be willing to work with you individually so you can improve your score on tests.
    • Teachers also want to know that you are making an effort, and they will respect your willingness to admit you might need help.
  3. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 27
    Talk to your parents. Although you might worry that your parents will be upset about poor performance on a test, they will be able to help you study for the exam or find someone who can help you study. If you involve them, they’ll also be able to recognize how hard you are working.[29]
    • Your parents have probably taken a lot of tests in their lives and might be able to offer some good tips or study strategies.
    • Try explaining the test material to them. Even if they aren’t familiar with it, explaining what you are learning and studying to another person helps you retain the information.
    • Ask if they could help you locate a private tutor.
  4. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 28
    Sign up for tutoring. Many schools and community centers offer free or reasonably priced tutoring services, so do a little research in your area and consider signing up for tutoring. This will help you stay on track and prepare for tests so you can do your best.[30]
    • If you have an older friend, classmate, or sibling who is familiar with the subject you are studying, ask them to tutor you. Sometimes, this is more comfortable than working with a stranger.
  5. Image titled Avoid Getting F's on Tests Step 29
    Seek help for test anxiety, concentration problems, or depression. If test anxiety, concentration problems, depression, or other factors are keeping you from doing well on tests, don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is the first step in feeling better, and if you can address these problems you will find it much easier to do well on tests.[31]
    • Let your parents, teacher, guidance counselor, or school know about your situation. They might be able to provide you with resources or accommodations that will help you be more successful when taking tests.


  • Study for 25 to 50 minute intervals, and take breaks in between. You’ll feel less stressed and retain the information better.
  • Before you start taking the test, read the directions and skim through it so you can budget your time.
  • When taking a test, try to answer the easier questions on a test first so you’ll feel more confident when you get to the tough ones.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (28)

Article Info

Categories: Tests and Exams