By Priyam, IvyWise Master Tutor
Preparing for mid-term or final exams this December can be a stressful process, as some students’ grades can depend heavily on these comprehensive tests – and grades are the most important factor in the college admissions process. There are a number of ways, however, that students can approach their exam prep in order to alleviate anxiety and perform their best on test day.
Students need to understand that preparing for final or mid-term exams is a marathon, not a sprint. Hopefully, students have been continually studying throughout the semester in order to prepare for any cumulative exams. Even if you’re just now starting to study, there’s still time to create a plan to help you ace your final or mid-term exams. Here are five ways that students can improve their final exam studying in order to achieve the best grades possible.
Review Class Notes Every Day
It is important to keep up with readings and take notes conscientiously in class as exams approach so that studying can be a relatively pain-free process – rather than resorting to stressful cramming in the few days before your test. A good approach is to review your class notes every day – add keywords, summaries, idea maps, graphs, charts, discussion points, and questions where applicable. Take the time to organize lecture notes after class, adding key examples from labs and course readings. Many students find that preparing for an individual class for 60-90 minutes per day, five or six days per week, will leave them well-prepared at exam time. Don’t cram at the last second as all-nighters simply don’t work for most people, and students generally experience declining returns on their efforts when they attempt to study for four and five hours straight.
Take a Practice Test
A great way to test key concepts and identify areas of improvement is to complete a practice test or questions. In some cases, your textbooks may contain dozens of questions at the end of chapters that may not have been assigned by your instructor. Attempting to answer these questions as part of your exam preparation will help to focus your studying and can aid in combating pre-test jitters by demonstrating to yourself what you know. If you still don’t understand a concept or have questions about the material, you can go to your instructor or tutor few days before the exam with a precise agenda.
Study With Friends
A group study session is also a great way to review and compare notes, ask each other questions, explain ideas to one another, discuss the upcoming exam and difficult concepts, and, when appropriate, delegate study tasks. Studying with friends can also help keep you on track, as designating a specific day and time for study sessions can help keep you accountable.
Create a Test-Day Strategy
What you do during the actual exam is just as important as the preparation in the weeks leading up to your test. A test-day strategy can help alleviate anxiety and help you perform at your best. When you first receive the exam, glance over the entire test before you start. Plan to write down any key terms or formulas that you’ll need before starting. Read the directions carefully and if something doesn’t make sense to you, ask the instructor. Write out a brief outline before beginning essay questions. If the questions are multiple-choice, employ strategies like process of elimination, back-solving, and matching questions. Leave the most time-consuming problems for the end, especially those with low point values. If you are stuck on a question, skip it and return to it at the end of the exam. Show as much work as possible, which is particularly important for math exams. Make sure that you are answering each part of the question. If you have time at the end of the exam, go back and proofread your work and look over multiple-choice questions again. Imagining your plan of attack before the test-day can help you make the most of your exam time, as you won’t be scrambling during the test.
Get plenty of sleep the night before the exam. While you’re resting, your brain is working hard to completely synthesize information, especially topics you’ve covered in the couple of hours before bedtime. Proper rest can also keep you from feeling groggy or sleep-deprived during your exam – which can greatly impact your test-day performance. You want to be as fresh as possible and able to fully engage your working memory when you take the exam. Also, don’t stop exercising or taking time for yourself in order to squeeze in more exam prep. Taking time to relax can help your brain better absorb information once you get back to studying, so don’t be afraid to take a break to hang out with friends or do an activity that you really enjoy in the days leading up to the exam. If you regularly exercise, keep it up even if it’s a brief stretch or brisk walk. On test-day, eat a healthy breakfast. If music gets you going, play something upbeat as you get ready. Wake up your body and your brain before you head out the door to take your exams.
Final exams can be extremely stressful, especially during the thick of the college admissions process. It’s important for students to create a test prep strategy for their final or mid-term exams and know when to ask for help when needed. At IvyWise, our team of expert tutors can help students with prep for just about any academic subject in order to help them perform their best on test-day. Contact us today for more information on our academic tutoring and test prep services.