Preparing for Tests

Around this time of year, some first year students (and others too) start to realize that they actually don’t know how to effectively study, learn material, and prepare for tests.  The memorization and rote learning strategies that may have been OK for high school usually don’t work well at the university level.  It’s not too late to change however, and there are various resources available to help, including at our Student Success Office.  There are some that are more engineering-specific, such as the following one I found a few years ago.

Prof. Richard Felder is well-known in Chemical Engineering academia, and is also known for his work in engineering education in general.  He has an article about Tips on Test-Taking, that I like for its wide-ranging and practical suggestions.  His tips echo what most of our advisers also say to our students.  To summarize a few:

  1. Avoid cramming, and start early.  Hard to do, but even just reviewing notes each evening can be a good start before the crunch comes.
  2. Don’t waste time passively reading text material and past problem solutions.  Better to actively work on problems.
  3. Get enough sleep.
  4. Practice solving different problems, but don’t waste time doing all the number-crunching.  Just set up the solution (unless the number crunching is the main point of the course).
  5. Don’t panic.
  6. Draw a diagram (if applicable), don’t just go straight to writing down random equations.  A diagram helps to visualize and consolidate the information in a complex word problem.
  7. If you don’t have enough time to complete questions during the test (very often the case), summarize your approach and hope for part-marks.
  8. Read over the whole exam/test first to get an idea of what’s there.  Tackle the question that seems easiest first to get going. You do not have to do them in the given order.

In the link there are various other useful ideas too, worth a look.




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