Studying means working with the course material. When you study, you review, memorize, question, organize, synthesize, analyze, and/or apply. Notice that these steps come after your initial reading and review.
When you study before a test, you match your preparation to the kind of questions you expect to see on the exam.
Studying for a test starts the first time you crack your book or take lecture notes during the quarter. All lecture notes, reading notes, and textual markings should be set up to help you review for tests efficiently. If you get in the habit of reviewing class notes daily and weekly, then you will have seen the material four times (reading, lecture, daily review, weekly review) before studying intensively for a test.
Predict Test Questions
Tests from earlier in the quarter are the best source of information. What subjects did the prof test you on? Which did s/he omit? What kind of question was asked (objective, short answer, essay, application)? Is the prof more interested in detail or in main principles or in both?
Other sources of information include:
- The professor's hints in class ("The most important point is ..." ; "This will be on the test.")
- The way the prof presents material. Does s/he spend a lot of time comparing and contrasting political figures, theories, etc.? Expect a compare/contrast question on the test.
- The TA's instructions in quiz section
- Study sheets provided by your instructor
- Review sessions provided by instructor or TA
Review Your Graded Tests
Don't simply find out the correct answers to problems you missed. Figure out why you got the wrong answer. Try to reconstruct your thought process. What led you to choose the wrong answer? On an objective test, if you wavered between two answers, and then chose the wrong one, why did that happen? What would you have needed to know to choose the right one? Do you need to change the way you study for the next test?
Look for patterns. Do you always miss the same kind of problem? If you aren't sure why you're getting things wrong, ask your instructor to help you figure it out, or discuss it with a study partner or a study group.
When You Study
- Make a study guide. List the topics you need to review and organize the material that covers each topic.
- Review your notes and textbook.
- Review material topic by topic. Synthesize information from diverse sources. Outline answers to possible test questions.
- Use study aids such as organizational charts, graphs, summary sheets, vocabulary sheets, and flash cards.
- To help your memory, recite the information you are learning, perhaps by reading an organizational chart aloud, or by writing a summary and then reading it aloud, or by simply summarizing as you speak.
Strategies for Different Types of Exams
- Study groups are very helpful when preparing for exams. You master something by teaching it.
- Essay exams: predict questions, make study sheets, outline answers, memorize outlines.
- Objective exams: learn important concepts in each unit and memorize facts.
- Problem-solving exams: list different types of problems; work examples of each type, outlining each step of the solution and explaining the principles involved.
- Open-book exams: organize your materials so it's easy to look things up. Then study as for any other exam.
- Take-home exams: work out a schedule; map or outline an answer, synthesizing from various course materials; draft your answer; revise.
- Performance tests: have short, frequent practices.
Much of this material comes from Active Learning: A Study Skills Worktext by Rory Donnelly (1990).