Samantha Stein, Marketing Intern
College is notorious for its extreme amounts of flashcards, nervous energy, and late-night food deliveries that often accompany cram sessions the night before course exams. With midterms long over, finals week can sneak up on you all too quickly. From celebrating Thanksgiving to planning for winter break, it’s easy to procrastinate, but being prepared is easier than you may think. If you follow these simple strategies to prepare for your next big test, you are sure to be less stressed.
Preparing for the exam:
- Studying Schedule
- The best way to minimize anxiety is to start preparation NOW
- Avoid “cramming” by going over your notes after every class or rewriting your notes (to make them more organized and learn through repetition).
- You should begin studying for your next test the day after your previous test (by rereading your notes every day, for example).
- You should begin intensive studying for the exam about five days in advance.
- Studying Strategies
- While studying, be sure to relax and take deep breaths. Inhale, hold, and exhale. Getting more oxygen in your bloodstream keeps you awake and alert.
- Make a list of the major topics in the course and decide on deadlines for you to learn each topic. Check off the topics as you go, so you can see your progress.
- Predict what questions may be asked and try to answer them, with examples, from your lectures, notes, textbooks, and other readings. Your professor may even give you an old exam to practice with. If he or she does, use it!
- Create a study aid (flash cards, diagrams, acronyms, abbreviations, etc.) to help you remember key terms and topics. Verbalizing this information puts it into your memory faster than any other technique.
- Repetition is key!
- Studies show you should work hard for 25 minutes then reward yourself with a five-minute break! This is called the Pomodoro Technique.
- Studying Environment
- Getting angry or frustrated is not effective studying. Be sure to stay calm and collected! Also, avoid friends or others who are “nervous Nancys” or “Debbie downers,” as they will negatively affect your studying and stress you out.
- Put your phone away to avoid disruptions. Once you lose concentration it is hard to get back on track.
- Before and after studying
- Exercise before you study
- Exercising gets your blood flowing to your brain, which helps you focus and absorb more information.
- Study before you go to sleep.
- During sleep, your brain converts what you recently learned into your memory. (So review the hardest material at the very end!)
- Get plenty of sleep!
- The average student who pulls all-nighters: 2.95 GPA
- The average student who doesn’t pull all-nighters: 3.20 GPA
- You should get plenty of sleep every night, not just the night before your test!
- Eat a healthy breakfast!
- Choose eggs, fruit, nuts, or oatmeal the morning of your test. These options will keep you alert and focused by providing protein, Vitamin B, antioxidants, and Omega-3 acids.
- After your exam, let it all go
- Don’t dwell on the test.
- Don’t ask others what they answered for certain questions.
- When the exam is over, treat yourself.
- For Objective Tests (Multiple Choice, True/False, Fill in the Blank, Matching, etc.):
- Work quickly and pace yourself.
- Try to answer each question before you read the possible answers. If the answer you came up with is listed, it’s probably right.
- Skip questions you don’t immediately know and save time to go back and look over them at the end. I like to put a small star next to the ones I skip so I don’t forget to go back to them.
- If you are answering on a scantron, be sure to skip the corresponding bubbles too!
- If you must guess, here are some helpful tips:
- Use the process of elimination.
- All or nothing answers are often incorrect (i.e. answers that use the words “always” or “never”)
- Likewise, extreme answers are also often incorrect (i.e. “99.9%, .000001%)
- Two alternatives with the same meaning- neither one is generally correct
- Two alternatives with opposite meanings- one is generally correct.
- For Essay Tests:
- Read and take the time to understand what the question is asking
- Look for key words within the question (i.e. describe, compare, contrast, evaluate) and underline them.
- Do a brief outline off to the side before starting your answer
- Leave space in the margins to go back and add information
- Leave time to proofread your answer
- For Problem-Solving Tests (like math tests):
- Translate the problem into “English”. Sometimes making equations into a sentence helps you understand.
- Check your work by performing opposite operations and working backwards
- Practice by working problems, just be sure to do them correctly
- Previous exams with keys are often posted—work through them when you feel like you have a good understanding of the key concepts so you can find which concepts you need to review further.
- Once you’re confident you can do the problems correctly, try timing yourself to be sure you are quick enough to finish the test in time
To help you study smarter, not harder, Academic Enhancement offers Individual Academic Consultations, where you can schedule a free, one-on-one meeting with a learning specialist for an individualized study plan! Consultations can touch on one or more topics like study skills, time management, critical reading strategies, exam preparation, academic stress management, and note taking. To schedule an appointment, use myUK. Academic Enhancement also offers Free Peer Tutoring and Common Hour Exam Prep; click the links to access the course-specific schedules.
No one particularly enjoys studying, but it is something you have to learn to do effectively as a college student. Regularly updating your checklists and schedules will help you stick to your study plans. You may want to find someone to help you stay on track, whether that is a tutor, friend or study group. And be sure to use the resources we offer at Academic Enhancement to help you master effective studying!