How to Prepare for a Test

It’s no secret that tests in college are more difficult than tests in high school. For starters, they cover more material, the courses are tougher, and the professors rarely hand out an itemized study guide. This can give college students issues when they are on campus.

We find that freshmen have the toughest time adjusting to new study methods and preparing for tests. Oftentimes, their test grades may sputter during their freshman year. When it comes to getting ready to crush a test, students need to find a process that will work for them. There are a few steps that students can take to boost their test scores.

First, a student should ask himself, “What do I need to learn to get a <fill in the blank> grade? Most students are going to fill that blank in with an A or B. It’s important that students set the goal from the beginning. This will give them a result to work towards. It will also force them to analyze the test and answer the question: What (or maybe how much) do I need to learn to get an A on this test?

Next, a student needs to look at their materials and prioritize what they need to study. Because college is more open ended, there often will be no study guide to walk students through content. Students must make their own determination about what are the best materials to use. A common mistake is students saying that they just need to study their own notes. That is putting a lot of faith in their ability to jot down the correct information. Students should identify the materials that they need to prioritize. They may be choosing from slides, readings, handouts, homework, old quizzes or tests, online lectures, and on and on. It’s important to prioritize and use the best materials.

After determining what to cover, students should break it down into smaller sections. Sometimes this is as easy as breaking it up by chapter or lectures. Other times, information can be split by content. After segmenting the test material into smaller sections, students must determine the best study methods to learn the information. There is a big difference between learning a bunch of Psychology terms and learning 100 years of French history. Students should determine the best method to learn most effectively.

At this point, students should be able to estimate approximately how long it will take to learn all the information and get the grade they are aiming for. Next, they need to plan out their study schedule and make sure they manage their time effectively. This is the best way to avoid an all-night cram session, high levels of stress, and bad test scores.

It sounds like a lengthy process, but this can be done in a couple minutes. As students take themselves through this process, they will develop the structure and organization that will lead to higher test scores.

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