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How to Prepare for a Paper-and-Pencil Numeracy Test

Although many numeracy tests are now completely computerised, with some tests you still work on paper. Getting your results for pencil-and-paper tests takes longer than for computer tests, but they aren’t any harder. Some people even find answering questions quicker and easier on paper than on the computer.

In a sense, it’s academic whether you prefer a computerised or pen-and-paper test – you probably don’t get a choice about which method you use, so there’s not much point in worrying about it!

Once you’re in and have found your seat, you can have a look at your paper – read the front page to check you’re in the right exam and when you’re allowed to start. Normally, you need to wait until you’re told to begin before you can turn the paper over and start working.

Answer the exam questions

Take a deep breath and skim through the whole paper before you begin, to reassure yourself that you don’t have too many monster questions lying in wait and so you can get a rough idea of the questions you can answer quickly and those you need to spend more time on.

Usually, the questions you have to answer in a paper-and-pencil test are multiple choice. You’re given several possible answers and need to choose which one is correct. Depending on the exam, you may need to write down the letter of the correct answer or fill in the appropriate bubble on a sheet.

If you’re filling in answers on a bubble sheet, be extra careful to check the number of the question each time you give an answer – you don’t want to miss one and find all of your answers are off by one space.

Make sense of multiple choice

Multiple-choice questions take a bit of the uncertainly out of how you’re expected to give your answer, and there’s no ambiguity in marking (either you get the answer right or you don’t).

Multiple-choice questions also give you a one-in-four or one-in-five chance of getting the right answer even if you guess – which should be a last resort, of course.

A multiple-choice question consists of three parts:

  • The information you need to answer the question.

  • The question itself.

  • Several possible answers (usually four or five).

Here’s a good approach to answering multiple-choice questions:

  1. Read the information and the question carefully. Think about how you may be able to estimate the answer.

  2. Figure out what sum you need to do, and work out the answer.

  3. Check your answer is among the answers you have to choose from. If not, think about where things might have gone wrong, and try step 2 again.

  4. If you’re on a computer, click on the answer you’ve come up with.

  5. If you’re doing a paper-and-pencil test, find the question number on your answer sheet and fill in the circle or box corresponding to your answer.

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