Pinball Wizard: 3 Study Strategies to Ace Any Test

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When I was in high school, I was a student who was very nervous about taking any test. I read the material in advance, took detailed notes, and ask teachers questions during the test to make sure I understood the problem. There are four teachers in my high school I quickly want to thank for being so kind and understanding anytime I would test: Morah Idit Cohen, Morah Hana O'Hana, Mrs. Laura Spunt, and Mrs. Linda Winrow. These four women saw potential in me and would help me understand what was being asked of me every time I had a test. This blog post is dedicated to them.

Fortunately, I overcame my test anxiety. In the world of Public Relations and Advertising, practitioners created strategies and tactics to achieve client's wishes. Here are three strategies to ace any test.

1. Pinball Wizardry

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Whenever I am studying, my mom always says, " Every test is like a Pinball game. The goal of a test is to get as many points as possible with the allotted time." By seeing the test as a mind game, you can center yourself before a test. It puts this test in perspective; it is not a measure of your overall intelligence (emotional, logical, musical, etc.); instead, it's assessing current material in any given topic.

Whenever I see a pinball machine, I think of this statement. There are several ways to become a Pinball test wizard.

  1. Look at every question before you start a test: There are often clues for other answers in the test questions. For example, suppose you are taking a midterm about Organic Chemistry, and you forgot a part of the formula. In that case, you can look at all often questions and see if the formula is reworded in another section.

  2. Answer the question you know first, and then use the remaining don't know: You don't need to regurgitate all the information for things you do know. If you use the buzzwords, you will get the points. This technique allows you to focus your energy on questions you find more challenging.

2. Pigeonholing

(Gif courtesy of defines Pigeon-holing as" to assign to a definite place or to definite places in some orderly system". I use pigeonholing to classify what each part of a question is asking and what buzzwords I should use. To apply pigeonholing to studying, you need to know the topic's the what, who, where, when, and why.

The great Dr. Barbra Gannon, who teaches Military History at The University of Central Florida, inspired this pigeonholing example. She taught me the two sections of this course about American Military History.

(Gif courtesy of

.When studying for an American military history midterm, you can apply the pigeonholing questions by

  1. What: What do I need to know: For this midterm, I need to know American military History from the French and Indian War to the Civil War (1754-1865). You can then remove any other information that doesn't fall into this timeline. The automobile was not invented until 1866 by Karl Benz (Corby, 2019). Therefore, it is not essential to describe the impact automobile had on warfare for this test.

  2. Who: Who do I need to know. For this test, I need to focus on the main players during the allotted time. I need to understand who influenced their behavior, what influenced their tactics, etc. I do not need to know who the main player affected in future military engagements. For example, John F. Kennedy has nothing to do with this period, so you would not need to know his stance on the Cuban Missile Crisis that a specific person can trace for this test.

  3. Where: Where did the testing material take place: The exam material takes place with military conflict on the North American content. I need to understand how the United States interacted with its neighbors. For example, I do not need to know about the military engagements or lack thereof in Hawaii for this test.

  4. When: When did this information take place; This was perhaps the hardest for me to master. I love History. I majored in History at the University of Central Florida. I would love to put down all the information on a page about the topic. What I needed to do is focus more on the subject asked for. It is excellent that the Mexican-American War influenced Lincoln for his Civil War policy. If the essay question is about the Gettysburg Address, focus on the buzzwords on that topic rather than give a biography on the speechwriter.

  5. Why: Why am I studying this. It is easy to say, " I'm studying for a test to pass the course." To succeed, you need to understand why you should care about a topic. When you are forced to take a course, the why component might not be as clear. The moment you find the why, you have a foundation for success as it allows you to answer all the questions above.

3. Purposeful Sitting

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When I got accepted into graduate school, I knew I need to learn to sit with purpose. Sitting with meaning is the ability to sit in a chair and focus on a task with your utmost attention for an extended amount of time. Similar to working out, think of your mind as a muscle. Sitting with purpose allows you to do work in a distracting environment without being distracted. I learned how to do this by reading classic books (a future blog post) for four hours a day at the beginning of quarantine until I began graduate school. I would start by reading for one full hour a day and eventually work my way up to four hours of reading without needing to take a break.

If these tips in hand, I know you can ace test. Just channel your inner Pinball Wizard.

Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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