Use Some Common Sense on Final Exams
Final exams are looming. Are you going to feel like a Thanksgiving turkey afterwards, or will you give yourself a fantastic holiday gift? The answer is in your hands, or actually your head, and your heart. So, here we go…
1. Don’t cram, don’t cram, don’t cram. The only cramming that should be going on at this time of year are the berries crammed into a can to make jellied cranberries. Pulling long study sessions, overnight, just a day or two before the exam will serve only a couple of purposes. To make you feel panicky, to make you tired, and to make you confused. It doesn’t work, don’t do it.
2. Did you bluff your way through an assignment, or a series of assignments? Now is the time to go back and do them. No, it’s likely you won’t get credit for them, and I wouldn’t suggest asking. However, there was a reason that assignment (or is it assignments?) existed. You skipped it, so now you don’t have that skills set, so go back and do them. Ask your teacher if he or she will review what you’ve done, not for a grade but to make certain you understand the concepts. Don’t get mad if they say no, they and the class have moved on, but do it anyway.
3. Dig out your old tests and go over them again. Pay particular attention to the questions you got wrong and redo them, with the correct answers this time. Don’t just check to see what the right answer is, take the tests again as if they are actual tests. Photocopy the questions, white out the answers, and retake the test. What was tested previously the teacher considered to be important, just because it’s a few weeks or a couple of months later doesn’t mean it isn’t important any more.
4. Flash cards are your friends. I don’t care if you’re 17 and the coolest thing since the last snow cone of summer, use flash cards. Hopefully you used them to memorize your multiplication facts, now use them to memorize vocabulary terms for science, foreign languages, parts of speech, math facts, and more. Use them with your friends…no, not to memorize their phone numbers, you probably programmed those into your cell phone already. One of you shows the term to the other, and then check for the right answer. Set a goal, as soon as you both can go through all the cards without missing any, it’s movie time! Flash Gordon, perhaps?
5. Focus on what you’re studying. If your mind starts to wander to something else, write it down on a separate notepad. This way you won’t have to keep trying to remember whatever your to do list is that keeps running through your mind and you can return to the school subject at hand. It’s going to feel awkward to do this, but keep at it. You’ll find that it clears your mind of all the “noise” and allows you to put your full attention where it should be.
6. Set a time limit. Anyone can do anything for 30 minutes, so set a timer and get to work. Be honest with yourself, spend those 30 minutes actually reviewing your materials and not pretending to read. Knowing you’re going to break the hard work down into smaller bites will make it easier to accomplish. When the 30 minutes are up, take a 10-15 minute break, set the timer for another 30 minutes, and start again. Don’t be surprised if you find that you’re on a roll at the end of the 30 minutes and want to keep going. It’s OK, go ahead, keep going.
7. Put together a study group, and make certain it’s a mix of people who have different strengths. Go through the material that has been taught, discuss it, debate it, come to a conclusion but understand why the conclusion was reached. Wherever you feel less certain about a specific point, ask the others about it. Chances are good that if you’ve built a diverse study group someone will know the answer. If you’re all stumped about the same issue, everyone needs to go see the teacher to ask for clarification.
8. Review your notes, in depth. Don’t just read them, but fill in the details that you didn’t have time to write in during the lecture. That will reinforce what the full lecture covered and not just the highlights. Understanding the big picture will help you answer questions about individual events. Don’t just scan them, fill in the details.
9. Rest, eat, be comfortable. Since you aren’t going to cram, be certain you get to bed, sleep, eat well, and wear comfortable clothes. This is not the time to stay up all night watching The Simpsons marathon, down a double-anchovy and pepperoni pizza, and put on a fashion show for your friends by wearing heels so high you can barely walk. You need to have no distractions anywhere so you can show off just how much you know about the subject your exam covers.
10. Huge point here … do not, under any circumstances, allow your feelings about the teacher interfere with your efforts to learn the material. You are not being tested on how annoying your teacher’s voice is, how he or she seems to pick on you, or how unfair the grading is. You’re being tested on math, English, science, social studies, or other subjects. It’s not easy, but you must put your personal feelings about the teacher aside and think what is in your best interest. Is it in your best interest to fail a class because you don’t like the teacher, or is it in your best interest to prove to that teacher that he or she may not be your favorite person but you aren’t going to let them stand in the way of you proving how smart you are. Your choice.
Good luck! When it’s over, celebrate, relax, breathe a sigh of relief, and feel confident that you did the best you could to prove what you know.