Now you’re ready to roll. You’ve prepared well for your exam (using what you learned about my winning study method in parts one and two) and are supremely confident in your ability to perform. But wait—there are still a few other pointers that will help during your exams! Often, you’ll have essay tests instead of (or in addition to) multiple choice or short-answer exams. Here are my four tips to helping you efficiently and effectively take essay-style tests:
- If you are given the potential questions ahead of time, keep them in mind while you review. On the night before the exam, identify which questions you’re most comfortable with and develop a list of key words. I often used acronyms of these terms to help me remember the main points.
- This next step is key, and happens when you actually receive your exam. Peruse the essay questions. Answer the easiest one first and the hardest last. Many students answer the questions in the same sequence provided by the professor but panic when the first question is difficult. By answering the easiest questions first, you’ll be able to contemplate the more difficult questions in the meantime. It’s multi-tasking at its best! By the time you answer the most difficult question, you’ll have had ample preparation while you wrote your answers to the other questions.
- When answering essay questions, be aware that professors look for key words or phrases when they grade. I always made it a point to include as many key words/concepts as I could in a given essay. If the test asks for you to list five key aspects, I’d give them at least eight. This gives you an extra cushion in case your terms don’t exactly correspond to your professor’s.
- After your exam, you’ll want to analyze your performance and make mid-course corrections for next time. Study your incorrect/weaker answers to see what you could have done differently in your preparation. Then, modify your methods accordingly.
Be sure to ask your professor for help when necessary. If I struggled with exams or concepts, I made a beeline to his/her office. Remember, you and your parents are paying big bucks to attend college. You’re perfectly entitled to take your professors’ time! This is especially important in cumulative subjects like math. Otherwise, you’ll be digging a deeper and deeper ditch.
College academics are tougher than those in high school, but they’re not impossible. Perhaps the biggest adjustment is the need for better organization and discipline. Whether or not you adopt this study method, the basic principles do work. Good luck!
Are you disciplined and organized when it comes to your study method? What works for you? In what areas do you need to improve? Share your ideas and questions with us; we’d love to hear from you!