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Studying and Test Taking

Basic Principles of Review

ORIGINAL LEARNING must take place. You have to learn the material before you can review it.

1. EARLY REVIEWDailyis most efficient, most productive. 
    A. Before you attempt to learn new material in class or through reading:
       • Glance over previous chapters or notes.
       • Run through your mind what you know already.

    B. Immediately after learning:
       • Rework your notes, adding material that comes to mind (don't recopy; this is wasteful).
       • Order and organize what was learned (Star, use arrows, additional comments, etc.).
       • Integrate new material with what you already know.

Forgetting is most rapid right after learning. Review helps combat this. Relearning is easier if it is done quickly. Don't wait until it's all gone. Move the information from short term to long term memory!

2. INTERMEDIATE REVIEW: is important when work is spread out over several months or longer. For example, when the final is 4 months away, follow this schedule:
    • original learning.
    • immediate review of limited material same day (~1 hr /wk/class).
    • intermediate review of material covered so far, after 2 months.
    • final review, before exam.

Intermediate and final reviews should stress understanding and organization of material.

3. FINAL REVIEW is a REVIEW, not "cramming" of unlearned material. No new learning takes place except to draw together the final main currents of thought.
    • Be brief. Review entire semester's work (set a time limit and stick to it).
    • Outline and organize from memory. Don't bother copying.
    • Recite (in writing or out loud to a friend or self).

Creating a Study Guide

Make a Semantic Map.

  • One page overview of material.
  • The main ideas will help you generate essay questions.
  • Look at details to think about possible objective questions.

Identify Vocabulary.

  • Write a list of new terms.
  • Write a brief definition for each term.
  • If you are a visual learner, draw a picture.
  • Make flash cards:
    • On the front = the term and a picture.
    • On the back = the definition and a sentence.

Predict Essay questions.

  • Using your semantic map, make essay questions using the main ideas.
  • Write an outline of the answer using your notes to provide details and examples.

Predict Objective Questions.

  • Review your notes and highlight key information.
  • Write out any lists that may appear on the test (i.e. 7 Phyla).
  • Refer to your semantic map and identify any additional details that may be asked on the test.

Write Questions and Answers using a 2-column format.

  • Identify what you know.
  • Elaborative Rehearsalput the information into a variety of formats until you have mastered it!

Anticipating Test Content

• Ask the instructor what to anticipate on the test. If he or she does not volunteer the information, pay particular attention—just prior to the examto points the instructor brings up during class. 

• Pay particular attention to any study guides or past tests that the instructor hands out before the exam.

• Generate a list of possible questions you would ask if you were making the exam, then see if you can answer the questions. 

• Review previous tests graded by the instructor. 

• Confer with other students to predict what will be on the test. 

• Pay particular attention to clues that indicate an instructor might test for a particular idea, as when an instructor: 

  • says something more than once. 
  • writes material on the board. 
  • pauses to review notes. 
  • asks questions of the class. 
  • says, "This will be on the test!"

This section includes information from On Becoming a Master Student by David B. Ellis and How to Study in College by Walter Pauk.

Overcoming Test Anxiety

Overcoming Test Anxiety

Before the test:

  • Be prepared.
  • Learn your material thoroughly.
  • Exercise.
  • Get a good night's sleep the night before the exam.
  • Approach the exam with confidence.
  • Don't go to the exam on an empty stomach. Fresh fruits and vegetables are often recommended to reduce stress. Stressful foods can include processed foods, artificial sweeteners, carbonated soft drinks, chocolate, eggs, fried foods, junk foods, pork, red meat, sugar, white flour products, foods containing preservatives or heavy spices, and chips and similar snack foods.
  • Take a small snack, or some other nourishment to help take your mind off of your anxiety. Avoid high sugar content (candy) which may aggravate your condition.
  • Allow yourself plenty of time to do things you need to do before the test and still get there a little early.
  • Relax just before the exam.
  • Don't try to do a last minute review.

During the test:

  • Read the directions carefully.
  • Budget your test-taking time. For a two-hour exam, spend five or ten minutes at the beginning to plan your attack.
  • Change positions to help you relax.
  • If you go blank, skip the question and go on. If you're taking an essay test and you go blank on the whole test, pick a question and start writing. It may trigger the answer in your mind.
  • Don't panic when students start handing in their papers. There's no reward for finishing first. Stay in the testing room for the full time. Reread everything you’ve written.

If you are aware that you have a problem with test anxiety, be sure your teacher or dean knows before any testing begins (and not the hour before).  

Emergency Test Preparation

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."  Mark Twain

  • Come prepared. 
  • Arrive early, if possible. 
  • Bring all the materials you will need such as pencils and pens, a calculator, a dictionary, and a watch. 
  • Stay relaxed and confident. 
  • Remind yourself that you are well-prepared and are going to do well. 
  • Don't let yourself become anxious. Take several slow, deep breaths to relax. 
  • Don't talk to other students before a test; anxiety is contagious. 
  • Be comfortable but alert. 
  • Choose a good spot to take the test. 
  • Make sure you have enough room to work. 
  • Maintain an upright posture in your seat. 
  • Preview the test: Spend 5% of your time reading through the test carefully, marking key terms, deciding how to budget your time, and jotting down brief notes for ideas you can use later. 
  • Answer the test questions in a strategic order. Begin by answering the easy questions you know, then those with the highest point value. The last questions you answer should be the most difficult, take the greatest amount of writing, or have the least point value. 

Once you think you are done: 

  • Reserve 10% of your test time for reviewing your answers. 
  • Resist the urge to leave as soon as you have completed all the items. 
  • Make sure you have answered all of the questions. 
  • Proofread your writing for spelling, grammar, and punctuation. 
  • Check your math answers for careless mistakes (e.g. misplaced decimals). Match your actual answers for math problems against quick estimates. 
  • When you get your test back: 
    • Analyze your test results, since each test can further prepare you for the next. 
    • Decide which strategies worked best for you. 
    • Identify those that didn't work well and replace them. 
    • See later sections in this chapter for tips on taking specific types of tests. 

If you have any doubts about the fairness of tests, or of the ability of tests to measure your performance, discuss these issues with your teacher or dean.

More Anxiety Remedies

Anxiety is something that everyone experiences to some extent in any stressful situation. For students, one of the most frequent stressful or anxiety-provoking experiences is taking tests. All students may feel some effects of the anxiety associated with exams. Anxious feelings can range from a nervous feeling to forgetting and blanking out or actually becoming physically ill. Slight amounts of anxiety frequently result in improved test performance, but anxiety becomes a problem when it begins to adversely affect a person's performance on the exam.

There are three main areas students can work on to reduce test anxiety when it begins to interfere with test performance.

  • Mental Preparation. 
  • Physical Preparation. 
  • Relaxation Techniques. 

Mental PreparationMental Preparation is of primary concern in dealing with test anxiety. Before the exam, the student can do several things: 

  • Be thoroughly prepared. A confident knowledge of course material is the first step in reducing test anxiety. 
  • Review material. Review should be spaced throughout the week. This aids memory development and retention. 
  • Don't cram. A final review is fine, but trying to cover two months of material in two hours is not an effective way to prepare for an exam. Begin your review process early to help reduce last minute anxiety. 

Physical Preparation.

  • Arrive at the exam location early. Relax, and don't talk about the test with friendsfrantic reviews are often more confusing than helpful. 
  • During the exam, be test-wise and have a plan for taking the exam. 
  • Some initial tension is normal. Generally, when you receive the test, stop for a moment, take a few deep breaths and exhale slowly, relax, and then start reviewing directions and test items. 
  • In a timed test, make a schedule for answering questions. Allow more time for higher point questions. Pace yourself to answer as many questions as possible. 
  • Don't spend too much time on any one question. If you can't come up with the answer, quickly move on. You can always come back if you have time. Higher scores will usually result from trying all items. 
  • If you get stumped on a question, move on to questions you can answer. This will get your mental process and concentration ready for more difficult questions. 

Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation Techniques are a third way you can reduce anxiety. When used with mental and physical preparation, relaxation before and during an exam can aid retention and improve test performance. 

  • Let your body relax, put your arms at your side, close your eyes, and let your mind go blank. 
  • Beginning with your head, first tense the muscles in the forehead and scalp for about 10 seconds. Then let them relax completely. Think about the difference and concentrate on making those muscles relax more and more. 
  • After about thirty seconds, repeat the process with the muscles of your face and jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, etc., until you reach your toes. 
  • While continuing to relax, imagine those situations where you feel most tense and anxious. If you become anxious, stop imagining and relax again. Repeat the process of relaxation and imagining until you feel no anxiety while imagining. 
  • Practice relaxing at times when you feel anxiouswhile studying, reviewing, or actually taking the exam (if time permits). This will reduce tension and help clear your mind for study and review.