Preparing for Exams

Students know that they need to study and that they should probably start well in advance of the exam. But because high school may not have demanded much in the way of studying, students find they really don't know how to study early and properly.

TRY

not cramming! (See next section for exceptions) .

WHY?

Because short-term-memory hasn't enough space for all you need to know. Also, cramming stupefies long-term-memory (where well-learned material lives), and it can set you up for panic and "blanking."


TRY

starting well in advance, breaking your studying into chunks, and reviewing often.

HOW?

  1. A week or more before the exam, do an initial overview (a 2-4hr quick review of the material); this will help to motivate you and to determine the structure of the course, where your difficult material is, and the volume to be covered.
  2. Develop and follow a plan for getting yourself through this volume of material, starting (if possible) with your most difficult stuff.
  3. At the beginning of each study period, do a 10min review of the previous period's material.


TRY

studying "from the top down."

WHY?

Because it is easier to understand and retain material that is well-organized. Therefore, start with a good grasp of the course's main ideas, then follow with the sub-topics and supporting details.


TRY

studying by jogging your memory.

WHY?

Because real understanding comes not when we stuff information in but when we draw it out. Exams require this same drawing out of information. So this should be the focus of studying: answering questions, solving problems, writing essays, defining, explaining, and applying terms, and working through past exams.


TRY

taking in no new material the night before an exam.

WHY?

Because you want to build confidence by reinforcing what you know rather than running the risk of scaring yourself by discovering something you don't know. Also, you want to avoid a temptation to cram.


Maintained by slaverdi@nh1adm.uwaterloo.ca
Last updated October, 1995