This is one of the best guides I have seen offering advice on how to study for promotion testing and it was, ironically, penned by CMSgt of the Air Force Kaleth Wright back when he was a SMSgt. This was shared with me from a friend and I had to work it into the site for you all to see. I broke it into two parts: Part 1 is study advice and part 2 will be about taking the test…

Part 2:

Effective Test Taking

So now that you’ve prepared yourself to take these tests, what should you do now?

Here are just a few test taking tips that with further cement your success and maximize your potential to earn that next stripe.

Pay close attention to these things…I would hate to see you spend 4 months preparing and then allow your nerves or some other distraction ruin your chances at promotion.

How should I spend the day prior to my test date?

Take the day off prior to promotion testing (take the week off if possible).  Continue your normal study routine but spend about half of the day prior reviewing and half relaxing.

Be sure to get a good night’s sleep – mental or physical fatigue will cause a lapse in concentration; especially when you get near the end of the test.

What should I do the morning of my test?

Wake up extra early!  If you normally get up at 0500, set your alarm for 0400 this day.  Leave yourself room to manage any emergencies or unexpected situations (traffic, flat tire, kids, left your ID card at home, etc…) There will be enough stress to deal with already so make sure you have plenty of time to manage any last minute issues.

Eat a small breakfast.  Testing can be a very strenuous process that requires a great amount of energy and focus.  A light breakfast (fruit, yogurt, pastry, or cereal) will make sure you have the right amount of energy to make it through the test  Don’t go to Bojangles or the Biscuit Kitchen and eat a giant breakfast with biscuits and gravy and pancakes – this will sit on your stomach, make you tired and possibly cause you some stomach problems!  Keep it light!

How early should I arrive at the testing sight?

Since you woke up an hour early and if there are no last minute issues, you should arrive at the testing site at least 30-45 minutes before your scheduled test time.  Use the extra time o sit in your car, do last minute reviews or meditate.  Clear your mind of all distractions and focus solely on the task at hand.  Be confident in yourself!  If you have followed the regimen described above you should be well prepared so avoid negative talk and feelings of uncertainty.  You can do it!

What if I’m nervous?

It’s natural to be nervous before any significant event you partake in.  The best way to combat nervousness is preparation.  Again, if you have prepared yourself you can easily overcome the nervous feeling you get prior to testing.  Proper breathing is the key to keeping yourself calm.  Also, clear your mind once you get in the testing room; there’s a significant amount of time between the time you arrive there and the time you are allowed to begin taking your test (admin time mostly filled with instructions from the test proctor).  During this time you should be thinking about absolutely nothing!  Not what you did yesterday, what you are going to do when you leave, are things okay at work, am I going to fail, did I study hard enough, etc… None of this matters at this point in the game so don’t fill your brain with idle thoughts that only serve as distracters.  Listen to the instructions and prepare yourself to knock this test out!

Now that I have my test what should I do?

The very first thing you should do before you open your test booklet is take 3 deep breaths.  Don’t be pressured by everyone around you opening their books and aimlessly flipping back and forth from page to page.    The 3 deep breaths will help you to relax and focus on the task at hand.  You’ll be amazed and how well this works.

Prior to looking at the first question, take your scratch paper and jot down any ideas, charts, steps or rules that you think you will need to answer specific questions.  This is perfectly legal because only you will see the scratch paper and the proctor will take it from you at the end of the test.  Most people don’t use this seemingly unimportant tool to their advantage.  Again, don’t worry if your neighbor has already flipped to page 4 by this time (he probably started studying way before you too)…you have plenty of time to take this test and you are well prepared!

Pretend that you are in a bubble and no one is in the room except yourself.  Don’t let people’s idle pencil knocking against the desk, leg shaking, clearing their throat or sighs of uncertainty distract you from your mission.  Stay Focused!!!

How should I approach the questions?

One question at a time!  Of course you can only answer one question at a time but here are a few tips to maximize your focus and ultimate outcome:

Mentally break the test into 10 sections of 10 questions (answer sheet partially does this for you with 5 columns of 20 rows of answer bubbles).

Answer 1 question at a time and pretend that you are taking 10 mini-tests – this will allow you to narrow your focus and improve your concentration.

Take a deep breath after each question before you move on to the next one.  This is an important step and helps you clear your mind of all the information you processed to answer the previous question before moving on.  Too often, we try to answer a question about disciplinary standards after we just spent 2 minutes racking our brain about how many F-16’s are in Air Combat Command.  This is particularly important if you are not sure that you answered the previous question correctly – either way you have to let it go for now and move on to the next one.

If you come to a question that you are unsure of, spend no more than 3-4 minutes trying to figure it out before you skip it or take an educated guess at it.  Either way you have to move on…don’t spend 15 minutes trying to figure out one question.

If you decide to skip a question, place a small mark beside it in your test booklet (you can’t make stray marks on your answer sheet) and write the number down on your scratch paper.  It’s imperative that you remember to go back and answer these questions even more important that you skip the same spaces on your answer key!  Don’t worry if you have to skip 2-3 questions in a row just don’t let them slow you down and kill your confidence.

How do I select the best answer?

First and foremost, read the question in its entirety and ensure you understand exactly what the question is asking.

Secondly, read each answer in its entirety.  Don’t just pick what you think is the best answer; justify why you believe it to be correct.  This process is sometimes done by justifying why certain answers are incorrect, eliminating them and giving yourself a 50/50 chance at sucess.  For example I was once faced with this question on a promotion test:

“Who is the Roadrunner’s arch nemesis who chased him all around the desert?
A. Bugs Bunny
B. Winnie the Pooh
C. Scooby Doo
D. Wile E. Coyote

Now I must have skipped this section during my 4 month study period so I had no idea what the correct answer was.  However, I did know that:

  • Bugs Bunny was on Looney Toons just like Road Runner so it could be him
  • Winnie the Pooh was never on Looney Toons and is way to slow to chase Road Runner (eliminate this answer)
  • Scooby Doo had his own show and rarely chased anyone because he was always running himself (eliminate this answer)
  • Wile E. Coyote – not quite sure who that is but I recall a scrawny wolf-looking guy always using ACME products so it could be him

I effectively eliminated 2 answers and gave myself a fighting chance even though I wasn’t sure of the correct answer.  I then conducted further analysis with these tow choices:

  • Bugs Bunny, after all was a rabbit and rabbits don’t eat birds!
  • I wasn’t quite sure what or who Wile E. Coyote was but the last name (Coyote) had me thinking that he was at least a carnivore (meat eater)
  • I was still unsure but based upon my analysis and my best guess I selected

    D. Wile E. Coyote

I later found out that this was the correct answer and was probably the one question that catapulted me to promotion to MSgt!!

Okay…let’s be serious for a minute!  Although this is obviously not a real test question, pay attention to the process that I used to give myself the best opportunity to select the correct answer.  The key Is not to haplessly guess…if you have followed the regimen we discussed earlier…you may not know all the answers but you will at least be in the ballpark on every question.

What should I do after I’ve answered all the questions?

First, go back to any questions you might have skipped and go through the steps above.  Make sure you answer all the questions…guessing can actually help you if you get lucky but leaving it blank will surely hurt you!

Next, do a quick but thorough review of your entire exam.  Read each question and identify the answer you selected.  Then look at your answer key and ensure that you filled in the correct corresponding bubble.  Don’t retake the test…your first choice is usually correct!

Should I change any answers?

I’m not all against changing answers but just realize the potential to change an answer from right to wrong is just as great as the potential to change one from wrong to right.  Only change an answer if you have since received some divine revelation (or remembered a key point later in the test) and can justify the change using the Road Runner method.

Again, if you have prepared well…the necessity to change answers will be minimized because you will be confident in your knowledge of the related subjects.

So now what?

Once your test is over you should do one thing…RELAX!  It’s been four long months of studying and you deserve a break.  There’s no need to worry about what you scored, if you’ll get promoted or if you’ll be the number one non-select who missed TSgt by .01 points!

You have done your part by dedicating yourself to 3 hours of studying a day for the last four months and maintaining your focus all the way through the last test question.  There’s nothing else you can do at this point.  Go join your intramural softball team, take a college class and volunteer at the Salvation Army…the test results will be out in a couple of months and you can plan your promotion party.

You can spend the next couple of days searching through your PFE and CDC’s for the questions that were on the test and pulling your nose hairs out because you’re not sure if you answered them correctly or not…but what’s the point?  Your analysis of how many you got right will likely be grossly inaccurate and it really doesn’t matter for next year because you will get promoted and won’t test again for the next 2-3 years.  Relax and enjoy life again!

Your ability to get promoted is in your own hands so you must commit yourself to some methodical study regimen that will prepare you for WAPS testing.  Hopefully this system will work for you.  Congratulations and good luck!

“Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity” – Henry Hartman

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