Do you know the most effective way to prepare for exams? Have you performed poorly on exams for which you spent a significant amount of time preparing? Do you find yourself getting stressed out taking exams or just thinking about them? Preparing for exams should involve a purposeful effort on your part to learn the course material and to prepare for the specific kind of exam you will face. You cannot rely on simply looking over your notes or trying to memorize pieces of information. Use these strategies to improve your skills in exam preparation.
The most effective strategy for preparing for exams is distributive review throughout the semester.
Use the strategies for Getting the Most Time Out of Class to develop a strong understanding of the material. By actively reviewing new material throughout the semester, you will store it in your long-term memory, which will give you a strong base from which to begin your final preparation for the exam.
Getting Ready to Study
On the Day of the Exam
Different Types of Test Formats and Questions
Multiple Choice Exams
How to attack the exam. Read all directions thoroughly and then quickly preview the entire test before starting. Are there sections of the exam weighted more heavily? Do the questions get progressively more difficult? If there is a difference between sections, set a rough time schedule for each section. Plan time to review your answers and change answers if appropriate.
Essay Test Taking
What is Test Anxiety
Every U of M student experiences some anxiety in the face of preparing for and taking exams. It is a normal response to any performance related activity. If you find that anxiety is hindering your performance on exams, there are a number of steps you can take to help alleviate your difficulties. It is helpful to first understand the nature of destructive reactions to the stress of exams.
Stressful situations such as studying and taking exams cause many students to experience physical reactions such as increased heart rate and perspiration. These are completely normal reactions to any stress inducing situation and are not necessarily a sign of destructive anxiety.
Destructive anxiety takes the shape of psychological and behavioral reactions that make it difficult for you to make good decisions about how to achieve your goals and can hinder your ability to organize your thoughts, read and understand material, and might cause a mental block when trying to recall material. The most destructive reactions to anxiety occur when you allow feelings of self doubt, negative feelings, and excessive worries to overwhelm you.
How to Reduce test anxiety
Preparation Beats Anxiety
What do I do if I am still experiencing anxiety? If anxiety is making it difficult for you to prepare effectively for an exam or if you are experiencing destructive anxiety despite your preparation, there are a number of strategies you can use to overcome the anxiety.
Analyze instead of personalize
Try Relaxation Techniques
What do I do if I can’t calm down enough to change my thought process? If you continue to experience test anxiety to a point where you cannot keep your mind from straying to negative thoughts, using relaxation techniques can help you change your outlook. There are a number of relaxation techniques so you will need to experiment to find the one that works best for you. These strategies can be used during your study periods and during the exams.
Additional Resources on Campus
See the U of M Health Systems website Campusmindworks.com for further information on managing exam related stress and relaxation techniques:
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