Studying for Exams
- Prepare a schedule for studying, and be sure to allow an adequate amount of time.
- Gather and organize your notes, class handouts, previous exams, outlines and textbooks.
- Be assertive, and ask your instructor what material will be emphasized on the exam.
- Reduce anxiety by focusing on giving your best reasonable effort and not focusing on the grade.
- Use active study strategies and avoid passively reading study materials.
- Use your preferred sensory mode(s) (visual, auditory, feeling) when studying.
- Prepare acronyms* for lists of concepts. Be creative and relate acronym to the main ideas.
- Continually relate new information to information you have already learned.
- Quiz yourself frequently. Flash cards with questions on front, answers on back may help.
- Focus on the material that you have not yet mastered and briefly review material you know.
- Prepare a "cheat sheet" to list formulas, definitions and information to be memorized.Use this before the exam during the final week of studying.
* An acronym is a word formed from the first letters of a group of words. For example:
T E S T - Testing, Effectively, Studiously, Thoughtfully
- Even if you usually skip breakfast, eat a little something with protein to give you sustained energy.
- Practice deep breathing exercises (breath in the count of "3",out the count of "4") to reduce anxiety.
- Avoid discussing the exam with classmates before the exam as this often triggers anxiety.
- Quickly review formulas and information that needs to be memorized immediately before exam.
- Arrive to exam site a little early and relax quietly. Affirm that you will perform at an optimal level.
- When you receive your exam, write down on scratch paper all information you memorized.
- Survey the entire exam so you can outline strategies to allocate your time wisely.
- Questions worth more points (e.g., essay questions and problems) should be allotted more time.
- After allocating total time for objective questions, calculate available time per question.
- Start with objective questions as these tend to trigger recall.
- Avoid spending too much time on one question. Make a guess, mark the question and move on.
- Read questions carefully and underline key words in the question.
- Avoid changing an answer unless you initially misread the question or recalled new information.
- Strategies for True/False Questions.
- Choose "True" if you're guessing and there are no contradictions in the statement.
- Choose False if any part of the statement is false or if it contains terms like never, always.
- Strategies for Multiple Choice Questions.
- Eliminate statements that contain absolute terms (e.g., never, always).
- Choose all of the above or none of the above if unsure and no option is clearly incorrect.
- If two statements are rather similar, usually one of the two is the correct answer.
- When in doubt, choose options that seem most familiar to you.
- Strategies for Essay Exams
- Read the Question thoroughly and reread the question as you prepare your answer.
- Prepare a rough outline first to ensure that you will address all points and stay on track.
- Incorporate the question into the first sentence of your answer and write in complete sentences.
- Provide details to support your points and proofread your answer when you finish.
- If time permits, review previously skipped questions and check all of your work.
Irrational Beliefs About Exams
- If I don't get an 'A', significant others will not care about me any more.
- My entire course grade, academic career, professional career and life rest on this exam.
- If I receive undesirable grades, I am a failure as a person.
- I am utterly stupid if I receive any grade less than a 'B'.
- I have little control over my academic success
- I must worry a great deal about my grades because worrying about them will magically make them better.
- My instructors should understand that I need good grades, and should give me the benefit of the doubt.
What to Do if PANIC Strikes During an Exam
- Stop. Relax for a few moments and take some deep breaths. If it is permissible, get up and walk around. Perhaps you could ask your instructor if you could us the restroom.
- Listen to what you are telling yourself, and quietly review any irrational beliefs you are harboring at the moment. For example, let's assume that you believe your academic success depends upon your performance on this exam, and if you don't receive a particular grade, you are a worthless person.
Calmly ask yourself the following questions. Does my performance on this exam actually impact my academic success that much? How have I done on other exams and assignments? Can I seek extra credit? Will I have other opportunities to raise my grade in this class? If I receive a poor grade in this course, can I retake it for a higher grade? How is my life truly affected by my performance on this exam?
- Assure yourself that you are doing the best you can, and that anxiety is not going to enhance your performance.
Counseling Services can be reached at (815) 836-5455 during hours of operation.