How To Do Your Best On College Exams
Before, During, and After: By now you've probably taken more tests than you can shake a number 2 pencil at, from pop quizzes to final exams. When was the last time, though, that you stepped back and evaluated your preparation strategies?
Before the test
Here are some things to consider when preparing for test day.
- Know what you're up against: Make sure you know what material will be covered as far in advance as possible. If you have enough time, you can learn the material through short study sessions rather than cramming at the end. This will increase your chances of remembering the material and understanding it in context.
- Review the material: Review all the material you have, which includes your notes, the assigned texts, and any tests you've taken earlier in the semester. Look over past tests to familiarize yourself with the types of questions the professor tends to ask and the type of material that's typically covered.
- Prepare for the different types of questions: Find out what kinds of questions will be on the test so that you can prepare appropriately. The following list provides guidelines on preparing for various test formats:
- Math and science tests: Go over sample problems. Make sure you're comfortable with each type of problem that may appear on the test.
- Multiple-choice and true-or-false questions: Go over the text for facts and ideas that can be addressed in this format. Look through your notes to see which of these the professor emphasized in class and focus especially on these areas.
- Short-answer questions: Make sure you're familiar with important terms, people, dates, events, and texts. Make sure you can spell the important terms and give examples of the main ideas you've encountered in the course. A good way to study in this instance is to make flash cards with the key terms. Then for each listed term, review all the relevant information and check that you can identify why you wrote down this term as an important one.
- Essay tests: Try to anticipate what topics the professor is likely to ask about. Getting together with other students in the course is a good way to generate possible topics. For each topic, come up with an argument you could make in an essay and compile evidence from the texts to support what you say. Make sure you cover several likely topics rather than trying to second-guess the teacher and preparing only one topic. You want to be relieved, not unpleasantly surprised, when you see the actual test.
Reprinted with the permission of White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans
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