Studying and Test Preparation

After reading the other entries of Strategies for Academic Success, you can see that studying and test preparation is not solely what you do in the days (or hours, yikes!) before an exam. Effective studying and test preparation starts with regular class attendance, organization, time management, taking and frequently reviewing class notes, and keeping up with assignments and readings.


Tyler K. '22 shares advice on how to prepare for tests and exams.
Strategies for Studying and Test Preparation:
  • Preview and review the course material before and after class. Preview by going through the notes from the previous class and any assigned readings for that day. Come up with questions and be prepared to ask them in class. Base questions on things that might have caught your curiosity while reading or something that was unclear to you. After attending class (as you should!), review your notes and fill in any gaps. If the professor went over something too quickly and you weren’t able to write it down, see if you can fill in the information yourself. If not, review your text to see if you can find the answer and finally, visit your professor during office hours to ask questions.
  • Keep your ears open, as professors often share suggestions for study strategies and information about exactly what will be on the test (either directly or more subtly).
  • Know the layout of the exam as you’re studying. Most professors will tell students what to expect for the test, whether it’s multiple-choice, essays, short answers, etc. Some may provide old exams to help you prepare. Treat these as if they are the real deal and do a practice run. 
  • Start studying early; an hour of studying each day in the week leading up to the exam is much more effective than 7 hours the day before the exam. If the syllabus shows an upcoming exam, don’t wait for the professor to mention the test in class before starting to study.  When you start studying well ahead of the exam, you have time to visit office hours if you have questions about material to be tested.
  • Form a study group with classmates. Even if you're not in the same section, you may be able to pool together resources and minds to help you all better understand the material. Act like a teacher and teach the material to each other and quiz each other on the material.
  • Review previous test(s) to inform your study plan for subsequent tests. Many professors review the exam when they return it in class; this is an especially valuable class to attend.  Did you study the correct material? Did you learn content in enough depth? Look at the graded test and see what you did well and where you could improve. Did you do well on multiple-choice but not on short answers? Where you lost points, did you tend to lose partial credit on a number of questions or lose full credit on just a few questions?  For the questions you got wrong, did you know that the answer was wrong (or likely wrong) during the test or did you think you answered correctly? 
  • Test yourself. Create a mock test, answer the review questions in your textbook, use flashcards, etc.  Just as athletes scrimmage to prepare for games, students should test themselves to prepare for tests. Solely reading and rereading to study can sometimes give you a false confidence in your grasp of the material; the content is in front of you and you can easily think “yeah, I know this!” Generally in tests you need to produce the answer (from the knowledge within you), not just recognize the answer on the page.  Study by testing yourself (alone or with classmates), not just by reading.
  • Use the available resources. Meet with a peer tutor, attend office hours, visit the PQRC, etc. If the professor or TA offer a study session, attend and participate. If the professor provides a study guide, use it.  Look at the study guide as soon as it’s posted. Even if you can’t begin studying in earnest for a few days, you’ll at least know what to expect if you see the study guide.