Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tips for Final Exams

Common Mistake 1: Cramming (all nighters or studying one subject too long)

Why it doesn’t work: Mental exhaustion - Cramming for hours and hours makes you tired and you won’t be able to remember or retain the information long-term.

Better Approach:
• Break your study times up into small chunks of time of an hour with breaks in between.
• Avoid burn-out by mixing it up. – Review one subject, then after breaks switch to another subject for the next hour.
• Boost energy and concentration by varying your methods of studying. Mix in reading, reviewing notes, studying with a partner, using notecards, and making new notes. Don’t overdo it by forgetting to take breaks and rest in between study sessions.

Common Mistake 2: Assuming that you know the material very well when you only have a basic understanding of it.

Why it doesn’t work:
Skimming the textbook or just relying on notes may not prepare you enough to fully understand the information and you may find yourself in trouble come test time.

Better Approach:
• Do a self-test of the material. Make-up your own questions or have a classmate quiz you on potential test questions.
• Say it in your own words. If you can't write a definition, a theory, etc... in your own words, you probably need more review of the material before taking the test.

Common Mistake 3: Trying to be make-up a whole semester worth of information in one week.

Why it doesn’t work:
Skipping out during the semester on classes or reading assignments can come back to bite you at finals. You can end-up digging yourself into a hole making it impossible to study productively because there is just too much information and too little time.

Better Approach:
• Attend class regularly and take just 15 minutes a week during the semester to review materials you covered in class. This will help you understand the concepts better and give you a leg-up when reviewing for your finals.
• Put yourself in a position where you are reviewing - not learning for the first time.

Common Mistake 4: Wasting valuable time by studying unproductively.

Why it doesn’t work:
Its human nature to avoid doing things we don’t like, for instance studying for exams. So sometimes we may waste time by discussing last night’s TV with our well intended study group or reading but not really comprehending the material. We don't realize how much time is wasted by not paying attention to whether or not we are actually getting anything out of study time.

Better Approach:
• Check yourself every half hour to make sure that your staying on track and comprehending the material. If you find yourself off-track, change your strategy like finding a study partner from class and talking through the material or talking to your instructor about any questions you have.
• When you feel that your mind is starting to wander or that you are too tired, don't push yourself into continuing to study. Take a break and pick it back up when you are able to be productive again. Long stretches of constant studying after your brain has stopped absorbing material is a waste of time.

Common Mistake 5: Ignoring your health for the sake of study time.

Why it doesn’t work:
Not getting enough sleep or eating properly in order to spend every available minute cramming for a test can wreak havoc on your health. Taking good care of yourself will allow for better concentration and retention of the material.

Better Approach:
• Get some sleep the night before the exam. Your brain needs a chance to rest and re-energize itself.
• Eat a healthy snack or meal before your exam. It will help you function better and avoid your blood sugar from dropping.


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