Have you ever studied really hard for a test, only to find that you still didn’t do well on it? There’s a better a way to prepare for tests: the cycle of test preparation. Tests show what you don’t know yet; and the five-step cycle of test preparation takes advantage of that fact. Keep reading to find out how.

First, “plan to study.”1 Set aside some time each day to study for an upcoming test. Start studying as soon as possible. Do not wait until the day before the test.

Second, “identify weak areas.”2 Think about what you don’t know very well yet. Make a note of what you need to study.

Third, “do focused study.”3 Concentrate on studying those weak areas. Keep reviewing.

Fourth, “check for knowledge gaps.”4 Create your own test and take it. Make questions from lecture notes, past assignments and quizzes, and your textbook. Include review questions from your textbook; or turn chapter headings and learning objectives into questions for your test. By taking your own test and grading it, you will find out what you don’t know yet — before your professor finds out what you don’t know through the real test!

Fifth, “fill knowledge gaps.”5 Study what you got wrong on your own test.

Repeat the cycle of test preparation if you can. By following it, you will be ready for the real test; and you may even find questions like yours on it.

For more study tips, see the resources on the “How to Study Effectively” Pathfinder and “like” the Arizona Christian University Library on Facebook.


      1. Kyoko Olson and Rob Oliverio, “Test-Taking Strategies” (PowerPoint presentation, GateWay Community College, 2012), 4.

      2. Ibid.

      3. Ibid.

      4. Ibid.

      5. Ibid.