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Test Taking Strategies: Home

Preparation Starts Day 1

Keep material fresh in your mind by going back to it regularly. Look for short periods of time during your day for review. The odd hours between classes or the few minutes before a class begins are ideal review times. 

Weekly Reviews

Weekly reviews should be scheduled to provide a more in-depth overview of what has been learned so far. Daily reviews will help with recall of details and specifics, whereas weekly reviews can begin to tie the material together and deepen your understanding of relationships and concepts.

Research has found that one of the best times for review is immediately before bed. For both daily and weekly reviews, the time before bed allows you to "enter" the information at a time when it will not be interrupted by the many distractions of your waking world. While you are sleeping, the memory process can continue, undisturbed, allowing the internalization of information.

Study the Way Your Teacher Tests

Notice whether the instructor asks about details, broad concepts, or application of ideas. Jot down any clues to the teacher's style of questioning to help you with review later. 

Study Questions can Give Structure to your Reviews

One option is to write questions or key words in the margin of your lecture or text notes. This forces you to identify the important points and relationships. To study, cover up the note portion, and ask yourself the margin questions. Check the accuracy and completeness of your response with your notes. If your answer is wrong or incomplete, you now know what you have to study. If your notes are not clear, now is the time to ask the instructor for clarification. Another good way to use questions for review is to write your own test on the material. Be sure to cover all the main points, and include several different levels of questioning. 

Write Summaries of Lecture Notes

Writing summaries of lecture notes after a lecture forces you to pull the information together and express it in your own words. If you can do it easily, you probably have a good understanding of the subject. 

When Reviewing, Do Not Re-Read

When reviewing, do not make the common mistake of rereading the textbook. To reread everything is a waste of your precious time, especially when you have already marked the text and made study notes. To review, quickly skim the material in your textbook, concentrating on your markings. 

Include Recurring Concepts in Reviews

Material appears in various tests, notes, quizzes, papers, summaries, or lab sheets because your instructor considers it to be important. Since the same concepts are likely to turn up again in major exams, include them in your review. If any problem solving is involved, practice working the old problems but using different variables. 

Create and Schedule Study Groups

Review study groups can also be incorporated into your study schedule. A few guidelines for this procedure are as follow: set time limits, keep the group small, have a plan, give everyone an assignment, come prepared, and take turns asking review questions. It is usually helpful to choose members who are serious about the group review and have good grades, since your purpose is to review, not to socialize or to tutor weaker students. 

Create Summary Sheets

During the major reviews before exams, create summary sheets that condense the important information. Consolidate each lecture/chapter on one sheet of paper or on a note card. At this point, your summary sheets contain only the bare framework of the material. Check yourself to see if you can fully explain the points you have included in your summary sheet; if not, go back to your complete study notes and skim for concepts you had trouble recalling. 

Avoid Cramming

Many students CRAM the night before an exam, i.e. they try to learn great quantities of previously unlearned information in a short period of time. Cramming is exhausting and unreliable, since it gives very unpredictable recall. Final review the night before an exam, on the other hand, covers a great deal of previously learned information in a short time. It reinforces your understanding of the "big picture" and leads to reliable recall.

VAK-Using All Three Channels

New information is learned via three modes: seeing (visual), hearing (auditory), or doing (kinesthetic). Opening as many of your three "channels" as possible gives you triple reinforcement of your learning. Summarizing out-loud, creating idea maps or outlines, and writing things down can all be part of your recitation.