Studying & Writing Effectively

Preparing for Tests

Studying for tests includes both in-class activities - listening, note-taking, and participating - as well as out-of-class activities - reading and making notes at home, periodic review and self-testing, and your intense review and self-testing sessions before an exam. 

What do you need to know about the test?

  • Identify which material is testable and where it comes from (text, lectures, labs, or a combination).
  • Identify the most important concepts from the class.
  • Know what percentage of the final grade the test constitutes.
  • Find out the types and number of questions.
  • Know the length of the exam.

Reflect: Are you sure that you are going to study the right material? Make sure you focus your study time on what is important.

How do you prepare to study?

  • Organize your study materials.
  • Prioritize your time and make a study outline.
  • Plan short sessions for when you’re going to study the material.
  • Plan a final review for the night before the exam.

Reflect: Have you scheduled one- or two-hour study sessions for six or seven days before the test? Remember that many short sessions are more productive than one long session.

How can you anticipate test questions?

  • Look at past tests.
  • Make questions from the learning objectives in your text and from headings and subheadings.
  • Make questions about important information the instructor said would be on the exam or emphasized during lectures.

Reflect: Were you able to come up with possible questions for the exam? Any time you come up with a possible test question, write it down.

What strategies can you use to study the material?

  • Create study charts to organize and summarize information and show how ideas are related.
  • Draw maps to organize and summarize interrelated material.
  • Draw diagrams and models.
  • Explain and discuss the information with someone else or a group.
  • Explain ideas out loud to yourself.
  • Create cue cards for definitions, dates, and formulas.
  • Use memory techniques for information that is particularly hard to remember.
    • Make up rhymes.
    • Come up with your own acronyms by joining the first letter off of each word.
    • Use acrostics by taking the first letter off of each word and making a sentence where each new word starts with one of the letters of the original words.

Reflect: Did you use the best strategy for what you were trying to learn, or would you try a different strategy the next time you are studying the same kind of information? Experiment with different strategies and pay attention to which strategies work best for different subjects and study tasks.

How can you test yourself?

  • Create questions with a study group and then test one another.
  • Practice making outlines or maps without your study material for possible essay questions.
  • Draw and label diagrams, charts, etc. from memory.
  • Answer questions you created, questions from the text, or questions from old tests.
  • Solve problems or work with case studies.

Reflect: Which techniques did you use to test yourself? Self-testing helps you identify what you know and what you need to study. It also helps prepare you for the actual test situation of retrieving and applying information.

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