These tips will make preparing for exam day more orderly, predictable and a lot less stressful for you so that test taking can become a part of the classroom learning experience that you face with confidence.
General Study Hints
- Plan your study time well in advance. Last minute cramming is non-productive.
- Several review sessions are better than one long one.
- Be rested; have a good study area—free of distractions, take breaks, stay away from pep pills or caffeine-laced items.
- Group study is most beneficial only after individual study. Be mindful; do not allow group study to drift into casual conversation.
Develop a 4-Day Study Plan
4 days ahead — Get ready to study, organize books, pencils, and notes. Complete any reading or assignments not done.
3 days ahead — Begin to study, 4 hours divided into 2-hour blocks (with breaks on the hour).
2 days ahead — Practice for essay exam, if applicable. Make a word outline from a practice essay. Focus your review on material you haven’t completely learned.
The day before the exam — Review cards, outlines, etc. to answer practice questions.
Day of the exam — Don’t study one to one and one-half hours before the exam. Practice relaxation right before the exam.
Suggested Review Techniques
- Compare lecture notes to the textbook or readings. Topics stressed in both are usually sure to be included on tests.
- Try to recall main headings of chapters, or try to remember sub-headings and main ideas of each.
- Use 3x5 cards for review of terminology, formulas and other brief facts.
- Review reading and lecture notes by turning headings into questions and seeing how complete an answer you can give.
- Try to make an outline of each section of a chapter. Write a few summary notes.
- In sciences, be sure you include laboratory notes in study. Combine all notes on each topic as you study.
- Try to formulate questions that might be asked and prepare answers.
- Prepare study aid sheets for the most important material, coordinating reading and lecture notes.
- You are well prepared if you can give a 15-minute summary without looking at your notes.
General Test Hints
- Have a positive attitude. A test is an opportunity to show what you know.
- Be sure you have a pen or pencil with you, if possible wear a watch too.
- Arrive at the exam 3 or 4 minutes ahead of time, so that you are settled before the test is handed out. Do not talk about the material just before the test.
- Read the directions carefully.
- Look quickly through the whole test and plan time allowance. Allow time for rechecking. There is no advantage to being the first one done—take all the time allowed.
- Pay attention to the number of points per question. More points = more time.
- Answer the questions you know first. Then go back to others.
- Watch for qualifying cue words in the questions, such as: one, best, most or generally.
- Answer easiest questions first.
- Be aware of the questions that might have information that answers other questions.
- Be very sure before changing any answers.
Different Types of Questions:
Questions that require you to tell all that you know use terms such as: comment on, describe, discuss, review or state.
Questions that are looking for specific characteristics, or limited facts, use terms such as: compare—likenesses, contrast—differences, diagram—charts and tables, illustrate—concrete examples, prove—show why by evidence, explain—restate in your own words, define—tell meaning, qualities, characteristics.
Questions that are looking for important facts without elaborating ask you to: enumerate, list, tabulate, trace, summarize, or outline.
Questions that are asking for your supported opinion ask you to: evaluate, interpret, justify, select, choose, or criticize.
- Plan your answers. Jot down ideas, a brief outline and basic organization before you start writing.
- Plan your time on the basis of points if possible. Set your watch where you can easily see it.
- Make your answers specific and direct. The first sentence is the direct answer; the rest are support for that statement. Use technical terms wherever possible.
- Be sure you are giving the information that the question asked for.
- Write legibly. Leave space between answers for possible additions.
Short Answer Questions
- Generally follow rules for essay questions.
- These questions usually require two sentences. The first identifies the term and the second states why it is important.
- Read questions carefully.
- Recall specific facts.
- Understand what is being asked.
- If unsure, stick with your first answer.
- Be brief and to the point.
- Don’t leave a question blank—write in something, your intuition may be good.
Multiple Choice Questions
- Try to supply the answer before reading the alternatives.
- Cross out the choices you know are wrong.
- Be careful with “all of the above” or “none of the above” type answers.
- Read all the choices to be sure you have the best answer.
- Refer choices directly back to the question for relationship.
- Identify the key phrase in the question.
- Recall any related facts and look for associations.
- Cross out the choices as you use them.
- Pick the answer that is the most closely related.
- Read the whole statement; it must all be true.
- The broader the statement, the greater chance that it is false.
- Beware of the double negative and the necessary change in thinking.
- Words that are usually a clue to a true statement: usually, probably, sometimes, most or some.
- Words that are usually a clue to a false statement: always, never, all or none.
Follow-up after the Test
- Try to determine why you got wrong what you did.
- Is it an indication of poor preparation?
- Did you not answer the questions asked?
- Did you misread the directions?
- Did you accurately predict the type of questions that would be asked?
- As soon after the test as possible, check on the material you were in doubt about.