Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Memo to Students about Studying for Finals

Taken from: Maryellen Weimer, PhD, Faculty Focus.

Start with a game plan. Think about sports and how there’s a game plan based on what a team needs to do to beat the next opponent. The same applies to a game plan for studying. What do you need to review? What don’t you understand? What’s mixed up in your mind?

Be realistic. There’s one week before the exam. How much time can you devote to studying—not how much you’d like to—but what’s reasonable? Then make a schedule of those practice sessions, and yes they should be thought of as practice sessions.

Prepare across several days. Teams don’t lounge around and then have one marathon practice the day before the game. But that’s exactly the approach some students take. They cram and jam a bunch of course content into their heads in the hours before the exam, hurry to the test, and hope a lot of it doesn’t leak out on the way. Cramming is a short-term fix. It only works if the test questions ask for definitions and details you can memorize. When you have to apply the content or demonstrate that you understand what concepts mean, then cramming is pretty much a bust. For every kind of exam, studying for shorter periods of time across several days works better—no arguments unless you’ve tried it.

Don’t just go over, get into. Research consistently shows that just going over your notes or rereading what you’ve highlighted in the text isn’t the best strategy. I know—I can hear your objections. It may feel like it’s working. When you keep rereading something, it starts to look familiar, and that can make you think you know it. However, just because you know where the words are on the page or you remember the specific class when a concept was discussed doesn’t mean you understand what they mean. The better strategy is to get into your notes; don’t just recopy them; deal with them. Do you understand what you’ve written? If not, is there material in the text you can consult? Can you talk with someone in the class? And don’t forget, you can always come see me during office hours. I will re-explain what you’re finding unclear or confusing. Read More...