When taking the corrections officer test it is important to know that there are common mistakes that can totally screw up your overall test score. The difference between pass or fail may depend on your ability to avoid common traps, and pitfalls when taking the test.
In this article I’m going to share some key tips that will prevent common errors and pitfalls on the corrections officer examination.
Proceed through the questions strategically
- Answer “easy” questions first: Answer test questions where you know the answer first. Skip the “unsure” or “do not know” questions and return to these questions after you have answered all of the questions of which you are sure. This will prevent you from spending too much time on any one question and ensure that you have the time to respond to, and receive credit for, every question that you can answer correctly. Whenever you skip a question, use some type of code to identify it as skipped in your test booklet and do not forget to return to it.
- Do not get stuck on words or sentences you do not understand: You may still get the main idea of the sentence or paragraph without understanding the individual word or the individual sentence.
- Use the process of elimination: If you do not know the answer to a question, first eliminate those choices that are clearly incorrect. Then, put a mark next to each remaining choice to indicate what you think about it (e.g., maybe, likely, or probable). This will save you time, particularly if you decide to skip the question and come back to it later, by reducing the number of answers you have to reread and re-evaluate before making your final choice.
- Guess: There is no penalty for selecting an incorrect answer in this examination, so answer every question. If the examination period is about to end and you are not able to complete all of the questions, reserve some time (e.g., 1 minute; 3 minutes) toward the very end of the examination period to answer these questions, even if you must guess. While your guesses may not be all correct, the alternative is to leave these questions blank and receive no credit at all.
Use extra time wisely
- If you finish the examination before the examination period is over, go back and review your answers. Make any changes that are necessary.
- Make sure that you have marked your answers on the answer sheet correctly.
Strategies for Analyzing and Avoiding Errors
Each one of us has strengths and weaknesses in our test taking behavior. This section is to provide you with a procedure to help you focus on areas for further study, if desired. The process of comparing your answers with the answer key and identifying patterns, if any, of where errors commonly occur is termed, “error analysis.”
The practice examination questions are very similar to the types of questions that will appear on the actual examination. After answering these questions and checking them against the answer key, complete the Error Analysis Form contained later in this section of the Booklet. Focus on the questions you answered incorrectly. Read through the test taking strategies presented below and apply the strategies to help you avoid making the same errors in the future.
There are several possible reasons for choosing an incorrect answer. Seven common reasons along with suggestions to minimize repeating such errors are presented below.
Reasons for Choosing Incorrect Responses
1. Answer sheet errors and guessing errors.
- Since there are a limited number of questions on the examination, errors related to the proper use of the answer sheet may lower your test score. Check yourself as you mark each choice on the answer sheet to ensure you are marking the answer you have chosen. Also, make sure you are filling in the correct circle/space corresponding to the question on which you are working. As an additional check, after you complete the examination, as time permits, review every question again.
- You may also miss questions because you failed to provide an answer or were forced to quickly mark any answer (that is, guess) before time was called. If either of these situations happened, consider why. Possible reasons and suggestions include:
- You may have missed a question because you skipped it and failed to return to it later. If this is the case, be sure to use some kind of code to identify skipped questions in your test booklet and remember to go back to them before the end of the examination period.
b. You may have “lost track of the time” and been unaware that the examination period was about to end before you could mark any remaining unanswered questions. Be sure to check your watch every so often so that you can keep track of how much time you have left. If you do not wear a timepiece, the classroom proctor is instructed to write the remaining examination time on the chalkboard or screen so that all examinees are informed of the remaining minutes left to take the examination. If necessary, be sure to save the last minute or two to mark any unanswered questions.
c. You may have been forced to make guesses for questions placed toward the end of the examination because you spent too much time working on difficult questions earlier, rather than skipping them and saving them for later. Skipping questions that are difficult for you, may give you more time with questions that you have a better chance of answering correctly.
d. You may have skipped difficult questions but in returning to them did not save yourself time by reducing the number of answer choices (e.g., maybe, likely, or probable). Be sure to use a coding system for any skipped questions so that when you return to them, you may decide on an answer based on the reduced numbers of choices marked earlier.
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2. Misreading a question or answer by overlooking a key word or phrase.
The solution to this type of error is underlining. Underlining makes those key words and phrases stand out when choosing an answer. Once you have underlined the key words and phrases in a question, check the details of the possible answers with the details you underlined, one-by-one. If every detail does not match, consider that answer suspect and try another, always keeping in mind you are looking for the best possible answer.
3. Not knowing the meaning of one or more key terms.
This is a problem of vocabulary. When you come to an unfamiliar word, reread the sentence to determine its meaning without worrying about the meaning of the unfamiliar word. Try to understand the general message of the sentence or paragraph. The meaning of the unfamiliar word should become clearer once you understand the phrases and ideas that surround it.
4. Having difficulty telling the difference between the important and unimportant parts of a question because it is complicated or difficult to understand.
First, these are the questions you should skip until the end of the test. These are also the questions on which you will use the slash mark technique mentioned earlier (general test-taking strategies). It’s called divide and conquer. Use slash marks to break up the question into smaller parts; then concentrate on one part at a time. When you return to these difficult questions, first read the possible answers before reading the question. This helps you to direct your concentration while reading the question. Also, focus on the topic sentences that are usually the first and last sentences in a question. Read these difficult questions twice. The first time, read for the general idea. Do not spend time on individual words or phrases you do not understand. The second time, read for more detailed understanding. The first reading will give you the general meaning so that the second reading will be easier. Lastly, visualize what the question is asking.
5. Not being familiar with comparing combination of information.
This is a problem of re-arranging information in the correct way so that it makes sense. Underline important pieces of information in the question and then compare this information with the possible answers point-by-point. Concentrate on eliminating the wrong answers first.
6. Choosing an answer simply because it “looks” good.
Several factors may cause you to choose incorrect answers that “look good”:
a. An incorrect answer may contain an exact phrase from the original question.
b. An incorrect answer may contain a phrase or sentence from the original question, but present it in a different way. For example, an idea that is rejected in the question may be presented in the answer as an idea that was supported.
c. An incorrect answer may overstate what the question has stated. For example, if the question says, “Some incidents…,” the incorrect answer may say, “All incidents.…”
Some strategies for avoiding the tendency to select incorrect answers that “look good” include:
a. Have an answer before you review the answer choices. This will make you less likely to choose an answer that just “looks good.”
b. Use the method of marking each probable answer to indicate what you think about it (e.g., unlikely, likely, could be) before choosing one.
c. Beware of choosing answers based on common sense or previous knowledge and experience. Answer only on the basis of the material presented in the test question itself.
d. Stick strictly to the facts or rules described in the test question itself. Do not be drawn to answers that stretch or exaggerate these facts or rules. This is the time to watch out for words such as “only,” “never,” “always,” “whenever,” “all,” etc.
e. Beware of answers containing exact words or phrases from the question material. Do not simply assume that such answers are correct.
f. Prepare a defense for your answer choice. Find something in the test question that will allow you to give a strong defense for your particular answer choice.
7. You may not know why you missed a question.