How To Prepare For Exams

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The purpose of the written examination is to provide the instructor with evidence regarding the amount of knowledge the student has acquired in the course. It is not feasible to ask questions about everything in the course; therefore, the instructor tries to obtain a broad sample of the student's knowledge. Before making the test, the instructor evaluates the content of the course in terms of the importance of the materials and then phrases the questions in such a way as to reveal the facility of the student in using the concepts and ideas considered basic to the course.

The student's ability to meet the requirements of the instructor depends primarily upon the effectiveness of his/her study methods during the term. If his/her methods have been poor, then the task of preparing for a final examination becomes extremely arduous with chances of success correspondingly reduced.

Whether the examination is to be of the essay type or of the objective type, there are certain common practices employed by the good students which may be helpful to you.  

  1. Make a schedule for review. Take into consideration when various examinations are to take place and how much time you think you should allocate for each course. Make this a written schedule designating the days and hours.

    In planning such a schedule remember that several short periods of one to two hours are more effective than long periods without any breaks. Provide 15-minute periods of relaxation after each two hours of study. This aids endurance and helps to keep you alert.

  2. With outlines, lecture notes, textbooks and notes on outside reading in front of you, prepare an outline of main topics. There will ordinarily be no more than 10-12 main divisions.

    An outline such as this tends to bind together the details of the course, and as a consequence, you will find that you will recall these details more readily and be more likely to use them in their proper contexts.

  3. Go back over all course materials and select facts and details, such as laws, principles, theories, ideas, formulas, illustrations, definitions, events, etc., to be learned and highlight them.

  4. As you are doing the above, try to anticipate the questions that may be asked by the professor. Place yourself in his/her position and hypothesize about possible good questions to ask students. Use lecture notes and previous examinations (if available) to get an idea of the types of questions asked and the content areas stressed by the instructor. If some of the details must be memorized, it would be a good idea to put these on 3 x 5 cards so that you can carry them with you and learn them during odd study times throughout the pre-exam period.

  5. After you have progressed through steps 2 through 4 above, get together with one or more students who are capable or more capable than you. Organize a series of questions that may be on the test and quiz each other. You will find that a discussion of points in this manner will reinforce your learning and reveal areas of further studying. 

  6. Go back over the quizzes, tests or papers that have been returned to you during the term. Be sure that you can answer all of the questions perfectly. 

  7. After doing the above and if former examinations in the course are on file for your use, test yourself on them. Be sure to check your answers against some authoritative source. 

  8. All of the above should be done without "whipping" up your efforts to feverish activity. Such a procedure may lead to unnecessary anxieties and worries. If you find yourself dwelling upon fears associated with the examinations, redirect your thoughts to what you can do to prepare yourself to improve your performance. Worrying is usually a substitute for action; hence, when you worry you are not studying.