Exams

To complete your education you will take numerous exams as the instructors try to determine how much of the material and information students have absorbed. Since every professor has his/her own approach to giving exams, you cannot rely on one tactic to sail through them all. The best way to reduce your anxiety and perform well involves regular study, which leads to a strong foundation of knowledge.

Most professors tell students what kind of test to expect as that information can help you prepare.  Objective tests can include true/false, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank and/or matching questions; short or long answer essay questions require recall, organization and thorough presentation of knowledge.


Preparing for an Exam

Most professors tell students what kind of test to expect as to help with preparation.  When completing your reading assignments throughout the course, highlight important parts of the text and supporting information, make notes in the margins and jot down notes that answer all the questions at the end of each section. You will find this information helpful when reviewing for an exam.

Use several different strategies to review the information the exam will cover. Try some of these ideas: explain the information to someone, record important facts and then listen to them, make note cards that explain the key concepts, draw pictures that remind you about significant material. If you go over the information in many ways, your recall and comprehension will improve. Last minute reviews and “cram” sessions usually cause more harm than good and you do not retain the information.

Strategies
Some students demonstrate their knowledge on tests more competently than others. What makes the difference? Sometimes it can come down to what strategies the student uses in taking the exam. Remember, when taking a university-level exam the instructor wants to know not only how much information you know, but how well you can apply it. Understand what the test wants.

One strategy that helps to ensure completion of the exam involves taking the first few minutes to look over the entire test, reading the directions and questions carefully. Answer all the easy questions first; this increases your confidence and could provide valuable information for other questions on the exam. Now, take a look at how much time you have remaining. Without taking an undue amount of time, answer any questions you feel less sure about. Don’t spend too much time on any one question; move on if you feel stumped.

Once you have gone through all those questions, take the remainder of your time to review the ones you have answered and tackle the ones that caused you trouble. Unless wrong answers penalize you, don’t leave anything blank; guess. You will base your answer on partial information, thereby increasing the chances of its accuracy.

For true/false questions, assume that you can answer each one as true, until you can determine what makes it false. One word can often make the difference, so pay careful attention to each part of the statement. One understatement, overstatement or absolute word (like “all,” “every,” “must” or “never”) can make the whole sentence false.

When working with multiple choice questions, first eliminate all answers that make the statement false. If you feel torn between two answers, choose the more specific one. Sometimes more than one answer will answer the question accurately; in this case watch for options that say things like “all of the above,” or “both b and c.”

As you work through sections of an exam that require you to match terms and definitions, cross out any words you have already used unless the directions specify that you can use answers more than once.

If you don’t know the exact word or term to complete a fill-in-the-blank statement, try writing or describing the answer; some professors will give partial credit for answers that demonstrate knowledge of the idea.

For essay questions, begin with an outline of your answer on the back of the test paper so that you don’t waste your time bringing up information that doesn’t support your point. Watch for key words in the question that will help you organize your response; some examples of these key words include compare, contrast, describe, demonstrate, discuss, summarize or support. If you run out of time and haven’t completed your answer, quickly jot down the rest of your outline. You may receive partial credit for demonstrating how you would have completed your thoughts had time allowed.

Objective Exams
Most of the exams you will take at the university level fall into one of two categories: objective or short/long answer essay.
Objective tests can include true/false, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank and/or matching questions. This use of the word objective refers to your ability to recall, relate and apply specific information, and logically use evidence.

Always take a moment to read through the entire test before marking any answers. You can often find information in one question that could help in answering another. Read the directions for each section very carefully. Answer the easy questions first and then go back to address the harder ones. Always answer every question, even if you have to guess.

For true/false questions, assume that you can answer each one as true, until you can determine what makes it false. One word can often make the difference, so pay careful attention to each part of the statement. One understatement, overstatement or absolute word (like “all,” “every,” “must” or “never”) can make the whole sentence false.

When working with multiple choice questions, first eliminate all answers that make the statement false. If you feel torn between two answers, choose the more specific one. Sometimes more than one answer will answer the question accurately; in this case watch for options that say things like “all of the above,” or “both b and c.”

As you work through sections of an exam that require you to match terms and definitions, cross out any words you have already used unless the directions specify that you can use answers more than once.

If you don’t know the exact word or term to complete a fill-in-the-blank statement, try writing or describing the answer; some professors will give partial credit for answers that demonstrate knowledge of the idea.

Essay Exams
Essay exams test your ability to recall, organize and sometimes apply your knowledge to a specific situation. Whether a short or long essay question, always begin the answer by turning the question around. For example, if the question asks “Why is rehearsal important in transferring information from short term to long term memory?” begin your answer with, “Rehearsal is important in transferring information from short term to long term memory because . . .”

For short answer essays, present the information as clearly and concisely as you can within one paragraph. For long answer essays, begin with an outline of your answer on the back of the test paper so that you don’t waste your time bringing up information that doesn’t support your point.

Watch for key words in the question that will help you organize your response; some examples of these key words include compare, contrast, describe, demonstrate, discuss, summarize or support. Start a new paragraph for each new point you present. If you run out of time and haven’t completed your answer, quickly jot down the rest of your outline. You may receive partial credit for demonstrating how you would have completed your thoughts had time allowed.