Scoring well on quizzes and exams is one of the biggest anxieties my college-age clients face. Students know they're supposed to study, but sometimes, even after putting their head in the books for hour after hour, grades remain low. The truth is that studying as we commonly understand it is a poor way to prepare for exams.
What's the right way to prepare to take exams? Take exams! Scholarship is more like a sport than most people realize. Runner get better at running by...running. Test-takers are not that different. If we replace the phrase "study for exams" with the words "train to score well on exams", then we are in the right frame of mind to study in a way that pays off on exam day.
How great would it be to see the exam before you have to take it? Wouldn't that be cheating?.While you probably can't see the exact exam you'll sit for, you can often find previous exams in the same subject, perhaps authored by the same professor. You can find these "back tests" in the hands of other students and sometimes even officially kept in the college library. I would be shocked if these documents didn't find their way onto the internet in one form or another.
From these back test we can ferret out not only the format (true/false, multiple choice, short answer or essay) that the professor favors, but also what areas get more emphasis and what areas get little to no coverage. We also can figure out the level of detail needed to test well. Does the professor care about specific names and dates or general ideas? Do we need to memorize formulas or will they be given? Knowing details like these not only helps us study better and score higher, but puts us more at ease because we've massively reduced the chances of being surprised by what we see on test day.
Having the back tests at your disposal is good, but using them to maximum effect requires effort. If nothing else, be sure you can score 100% on all the questions on all the back tests. I can't tell you the number of times I've clucked my tongue because a professor used the exact same question year after year. But for best results, become the test author yourself. Look at your notes with an eye for where questions might be hiding. Write them yourself. Answer them yourself. Not only are you learning the material, but you're thinking the same thoughts your professor is thinking as he writes your exam. You might be surprised at how many of your made-up questions show up on the real test.
Getting back tests and learning to practice testing rather than "study" are just two of a large toolbox of skills I share with my student-clients. If academics are causing anxiety or depression, I can give you methods not only to feel better, but also to score better on your next exam. Feel free to drop me a line by text or voice at 404-530-9057 to take the next step.
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A Licensed Professional Counselor practicing in Atlanta, Georgia, Gordon helps geeky guys level up their social confidence and social success.