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Ace Your Next Exam

April 22, 2011

10 Tips to Help you get a great grade on your next exam

Before the test:

  • Do your Homework! Your teachers give you an assignment, because more often than not it will be on the exam. They’re trying to get you to study what they will put on the exam. Use your graded homework as a study guide. That vocabulary work your teacher had you do will be on the exam. If he had you look up a set of dates, those will be on there too. Don’t be surprised to see a problem from a homework set appear verbatim on the exam.
  • Have a plan: Don’t try to cram the night before. Prepare by using several small session in the week before the exam. Make a study plan the week before, then carry out the plan.  You’ll usually find 15-20 minutes a day for 5 days prior to be much more effective than multiple hours the night before.
  • Get plenty of sleep and eat breakfast: See the point above, trying to cram hurts you in two ways. Dozens of studies have shown that a good breakfast and proper amounts of sleep make for better test scores. It has to do with ATP production in your mitochondria, you remember ATP from biology, right?
  • Ask for help: Don’t be shy about asking your teacher for help, most are available after school. They’ll be happy to help clarify any issues you’re fuzzy on, and can offer some pretty overt hints about what will be in the exam.

The day of the exam:        

  • First, skim the test: make note of what will be difficult and what questions might have been answered on a different part of the exam. What sections will take the most time? Are there more questions hiding on the back of the back page?
  • Now that you’ve seen the whole test, pace yourself. Keep in mind what needs to get done, and don’t get hung up trying to answer one problem. If it’s taking too much time, move on and come back later when you have time.
  • Perform a brain dump: Write down all the equations that you’ve worked so hard to memorize; and all the timelines, and all the mnemonic tools/acronyms.  Don’t force yourself to recall them in the middle of the exam under pressure.
  • Read the instructions and the questions, TWICE: Don’t lose point because you didn’t answer the question properly or didn’t provide the second part of the answer.
  • Double check your work: Don’t lose points to a silly error or a mis-read of an answer.

After the exam:

  • Review the corrected test:  when it’s handed back, correct your mistakes on the paper. If you can’t keep the corrected test, note what you got wrong and why, make it a point not to make that mistake again.
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