Taking tests is simply a way of life for the average college student. Doing well on your exams and tests is critical to your success in college because they are often worth the majority of your grade. The funny thing is, most students are never taught how to adequately prepare for them. The majority of students simply read over their lecture notes and textbooks a number of times before test day rolls around. This test preparation method is simply not adequate. There are better ways to prepare. Let’s take a look at how to prepare for a test – the right way.
Figure out what’s going to be on the test
Most professors will clue you in on what is going to be on their exams. If they don’t, then you need to take advantage of their office hours or their inbox and ask them. There’s nothing wrong with a direct question such as, “What is going to be on the exam?” They want you to learn. Most professors will gladly tell you where to focus your efforts. Other than that, look back on your assignments, readings, and lecture notes to find out what the main concepts are.
Writing it down
The problem with just reading your notes or textbook is that it is passive in nature. Have you ever read an entire page of a book, gotten to the end, and not remembered one word you just read? Of course you have. We all have experienced that. That’s because reading is very passive and does not require a lot of mental engagement. When you write things down you engage your mind, which leads to deeper understanding and better memory recall.
Re-writing your notes is just one form of active studying. What exactly is active studying you ask? Active studying occurs when you create new study materials. The type of active study materials you create depends on the type of test you take. Let’s take a look at some active study tips.
Outlining – outlining helps you see the big picture of the concepts you are learning in class. By creating an outline you are able to understand how the concepts flow and interconnect. Outlining is particularly useful for social science and natural science courses.
List making – making lists is effective for memorization and categorization of material. When making lists, ensure that they are somehow categorized.
Flowchart – flowcharts are good for sequential concepts. Flowcharts are particularly helpful when learning scientific principles.
Diagrams – diagrams are great for people who are visual learners. They help you learn how complex systems and concepts correlate.