By the time your instructor announces an exam, you should have done the following:
- kept a set of notes for each class
- kept a set of notes (or markings) for each textbook chapter
- reviewed your notes periodically to keep the material fresh
On-going review of your class and textbook notes will result in your exam preparation requiring less time.
When preparing for an exam, use the following steps as a guideline.
6-7 Days Prior to an Exam
Review Relevant Course Material
- Early in your exam review, reread your lecture notes and textbook notes/markings, hand-outs, supplemental readings and corrected quizzes, making sure they are clear and meaningful.
- Do not reread any entire textbook chapters, but do reread a section or two to clarify confusing points or topics.
4-5 Days Prior to an Exam
Use Notes to Develop Study Sheets
- Combine lecture notes and textbook notes — organize the material for study.
- Reduce the number of study pages by at least half using headings, subheadings, syllabus, key terms, etc., form a concentrated version of notes/handouts, etc.
- If a course involves memorizing facts, formula, dates, vocabulary, etc., try using flash cards instead of study sheets.
3-4 Days Prior to an Exam
Recite and Write
- Recite the newly created study sheets, breaking them down into segments until the material is known for total recall – not recognition. The more you recite, the more you will remember at exam times. Review each previously learned section before going on to learning the next.
- Writing information, such as comparison charts, maps, time lines, etc., helps transfers information to memory.
2 Days Prior to an Exam
Attend a Study Group
- If a study group is not available, form your own with members of your class.
- Study Groups enable you to discuss and clarify important information and predict exam questions.
- You will need to complete a concentrated review process alone. Your own private recitation and concentrated review are necessities for your learning.
The Night Prior to an Exam
Complete a Concentrated Review
- The concentrated review should cover all information likely to appear on the exam.
- Quiz yourself on what you have learned, using key words or questions to jog your memory.
- If the exam will be an essay exam, use part of the concentrated review to write an essay answer or two or reproduce a diagram, chart, map, etc.
- Get to bed at a reasonable hour. The more rested you are the better your performance on an exam.
The Day of an Exam
Conduct a Brief Review(Do not attempt to learn anything new)
Taking the Exam
- Read the exam directions carefully and follow those given by the professor.
- On a corner of the exam or on a scrap piece of paper, write down anything you need to remember – formulas, facts, names, etc.
- Read through the entire exam before beginning to answer, taking note of qualifying words and making sure questions are understood.
- Budget your time, spending more time on the questions worth more points.
- Answer the easiest questions first.
- Go back and read through the exam again and answer the more difficult questions.
- On your third “read through”, answer the questions you will be guessing at, following appropriate guessing techniques.
- Read through the entire exam, circling key words in questions.
- Jot down answer phrases which occur to you.
- Begin writing answers by answering the easiest question first to build your confidence.
- Move on the harder questions, bearing in mind the point values and your time.
- Use the full time allotted and be sure to review, correct and add information to answers
How Smart Students Rehearse for Exams
- Size up the type of exam before you begin studying
- Are the questions primarily from the lecture, textbook, or outside readings?
- Is it cumulative?
- Do the questions focus on main themes, details, or both?
- Do the questions require factual or analytic answers?
- Will the test give you a choice of questions?
- What information will be provided (formulas, graphs, etc)?
- What level of expertise does it require?
- What types of questions will be included: essay, short-answer, multiple choice?
- Does your professor have any strongly held viewpoints, or opinions?
- Get an overview of the course
- Know the Big Picture before immersing yourself in the details of the course.
- Apply the 80 – 20 Rule.
- 20% of the facts and ideas covered in your course
- will account for 80% of the test questions.
- Review your previous exams
- What was your biggest problem overall?
- What comments did your professor make?
- What caused your mistakes?
- From where did the professor draw the test questions: the textbook, the lecture, elsewhere?
- Were you as prepared as you should have been?
- Condense your notes and make your own study sheets.
- Review original notes on occasion instead of just reviewing your study sheets.
- Condense your summary sheets one final time — keep reworking the information.
- Reconstruct your summary sheet from memory.
Compiled by Eileen Lewis