Using Test Results

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Effectively evaluate your test results.
  • Analyze your errors and correct your mistakes.

Printout of Grade 7 Standardized Test ResultsSo far, we have focused on how to study for and take tests effectively. This section discusses how to use test results to their greatest benefit. Some of your most important learning begins when your graded test paper is returned to you. Make sure you listen to the instructor as the papers are returned. What is the instructor saying about the test? Is there a particular point everyone had trouble with? The instructor’s comments at this point may give you important information about what you should study more, about the value of review sessions, and even about possible questions for the next exam. Although you may be tempted to throw away the exam, don’t. It is a very helpful tool for the next phase of preparing for learning.

Evaluating Your Test Results

When you receive your test back, sit quietly and take a close look at it. What questions did you get wrong? What kind of mistakes were they? (See Table “Exam Errors and How to Correct Them.”) Do you see a pattern? What questions did you get right? What were your strengths? What can you learn from the instructor’s comments? Now think of the way in which you prepared for the exam and the extent to which you applied the exam strategies described earlier in this chapter. Were you prepared for the exam? Did you study the right material? What surprised you? Did you read the entire test before starting? Did your time allocation work well, or were you short of time on certain parts of the exam?

Exam Errors and How to Correct Them

Type of Error Examples Corrective Steps
Study and Preparation Errors I did not study the material for that question (enough). Practice predicting possible questions better.
I ran out of time. Join a study group.
I did not prepare enough. Read the entire test before starting. Allocate your time.
Focus Errors or Carelessness I did not read the directions carefully. Allocate exam time carefully.
I confused terms or concepts that I actually know well. Give yourself time to read carefully and think before answering a question.
I misread or misunderstood the question. Underline key terms in the questions.
Content Errors I studied the material but couldn’t make it work with the question Seek additional help from the instructor.
I didn’t understand what the instructor wanted. Go to all classes, labs, and review sessions.
I confused terms or concepts. Join a study group.
Check and practice your active reading and listening skills.
Schedule regular study time for this course.
Mechanical Errors The instructor misread my writing. Slow down! Don’t rush through the exam. Take the time to do things right the first time.
I didn’t erase a wrong answer completely (on a computer-graded answer sheet).
I forgot to go back to a question I had skipped over.
I miscopied some calculations or facts from my worksheet.

Based on your analysis of your test, identify the kind of corrective steps you should take to improve your learning and test performance. Implement those steps as you begin your preparation for your next class.

Correcting Your Mistakes

The second step in making your test work for you is to correct your wrong answers.

  • For multiple-choice questions, write out the question stem with the correct answer to form a single correct sentence or phrase.
  • For true-or-false questions, write the full statement if it is true; if it is false, rewrite it in such a way that it is true, such as by inserting the word not.
  • For math and science questions involving calculations, redo the entire solution with the calculations written out fully.
  • You need not rewrite an entire essay question if you did not do well, but you should create a new outline for what would be a correct answer. Make sure to consider your instructor’s comments.
  • When you have rewritten all your answers, read them all out loud before incorporating your new answers in your notes.
Students holding envelopes with test results

The final step is to take your corrected answers and incorporate them into your notes and study guides. This is especially important for courses that have midterm and final exams or are foundational for your future courses.


  • Working with exams does not end when your instructor hands back your graded test.
  • Quizzes and midterms are reliable predictors of the kind of material that will be on the final exam.
  • When evaluating your test performance, don’t look only at the content you missed. Identify the types of mistakes you commonly make and formulate plans to prevent these mistakes in future assessments.


  1. Take time to examine your notes for each course you are now taking. Are your exams and quizzes part of that package? If not, include them now and review them this week.
  2. Compare your exams across two or three courses. What kinds of mistakes do you make on a regular basis? Is there a trend you need to correct?