Thursday, July 1, 2010

Studying the Tests

A lot of students nowadays don't seem to understand, or are even aware, that there's a fundamental difference between learning in school, and succeeding in school. This difference is key because it is an excellent guideline to how you should approach almost everything in school that will count for a grade. Suppose you have a biology test tomorrow. Would the optimal approach be to sit down and start reading the biology textbook from page 1? Assuming your goal is to gain as much learning as possible, that would probably be a good place to start. However, the successful student must think more practically. This student understands that doing well on tests is more about studying the test than studying the material. Half the battle of doing well on tests is to find out as much as humanly possible about what exactly your instructor will be examining you on. You can spend literally days studying and still fail a test because you did not focus your efforts in the proper places. Be "that guy" and ask the professor as many questions as you feel are essential. If you feel embarrassed, ask him after class. He might get annoyed, but he'll also begin to understand that you really care about your performance, and that'll pay important dividends when he decides your final grade(also, he'll actually learn your name). Make sure to listen to other students' questions as well, for even the greatest mind cannot do the work of a few. Lectures are also invaluable resources for possible exam questions. Listen for what your instructor emphasizes multiple times, as this is almost a guarantee that that topic will show up as a question in some form or another. Once you have compiled all this information, only then is it time to begin the studying process. Remember, you are not trying to learn the material; you are trying to learn the test. Study almost exclusively from the information you collected. Also, remember that it's never too late to collect or update your test database. Keep your ears open. The professor may suddenly decide to take something off the test, or add an additional topic. It is up to you and only you to notice these things. Making a lot of friends in the class makes this step (and life in general) a lot easier. Also, try to trust your gut. If the professor didn't mention specifically that something was going to be on the test, but something in your gut just tells you it will be, go ahead and review it. It's all about predicting the test questions. Sure, some people might think that what I'm saying here is an insult to the teachers and their teaching method, but this strategy is not an attempt to insult anybody. It is simply playing the game using the rules the system has set up for you. That's life, and we have to do our best to adapt and thrive in it.

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