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How To Study and Take Tests

Dr. Robert M. Brooker
Herbert G. Bohn Professor Emeritus of Chemistry
University of Indianapolis

K-12 TLC Guide to Problem Solving

General Advice

Tests and Exams


Advanced Preparation, Right Before the Test, Taking the Test, After the Test
Essay Questions, Problem Solving, True-False Questions
Standardized Tests
Final Thought

How
to
Study

General Advice
  • Be prepared.
    Going to class unprepared will result in little learning.
  • Get to class on time.
  • Get involved in class discussions.
  • Ask questions before class, during class, and after class.

How
to
Study

Tests
&
Exams


Advanced Preparation
  • There is no substitute for knowing the material.
    No short-cut will help very much.
  • Knowledge removes fear and panic.
  • Go through the textbook, lectures, references and problems, and see how they interrelate.
  • Think of questions that might be asked.
    Look up and answer questions at the end of each chapter.
    If you can't answer these, you won't be able to answer those on a test.
  • Don't cram. It never works over the long haul.
  • Know your instructor.
    Some want interpretations and applications.
    Some want relationships and synthesis.
    Some stress knowledge of specific names, dates, events and definitions.
    Some stress solving problems.
  • Ask your instructor what type of test he/she usually gives, and what type of answers he/she wants.
    For example, essay or short answer?
  • If the test requires problem solving, find out if the instructor wants work shown or just the answer.
  • Get copies of previous tests and go over them.
    This will tell you how the instructor asks questions, and how the instructor grades the exams.
  • Ask other students for help. Don't ask "D" and "F" students for help.. Ask good students.

How
to
Study

Tests
&
Exams


Right Before
The Test
  • Get an adequate amount of rest. Don't study all night.
  • Get in a final review the day or evening before the test, then relax.
  • The final review should be done from summary notes/cards you have made.
  • Don't study on the day of the test.
    Last-minute studying tends to scramble the material in your mind.
  • Get to test on time with all of the equipment (calculator, pencils, erasers, paper) that is needed and allowed.
  • Start the test mentally and physically alert.

How
to
Study

Tests
&
Exams


Taking
The Test
  • Before you start:

    • Scan all of the test first.
    • Read any directions.
    • If necessary, ask questions, but don't get too technical.
    • Read questions carefully--all of them.
    • Decide how you will allocate your time.
      Use your time wisely.
    • Check and see if words are omitted or misspelled. Clarify questions, but don't get too picky.
      The instructor has the final word.

  • Follow directions.
  • If instructions say to answer "either" or "or," this means that you do not do both.
  • If instructions say to answer five of ten, it means just that. Answering six of them only means that the instructor can pick the five worst, not necessarily the five best that you answered.

How
to
Study

Tests
&
Exams


After
The Test
  • After you get the test back, go over each item carefully. See what you did right and what you did wrong.
    See what you should have done.
    Learn from your mistakes.
  • Do not criticize the teacher. He/she is not out to get you.
  • Do not quibble over one or two points.
  • Do not blame someone else for a low grade.
  • Do not blame someone else because you misread a question.
  • Do not brag about your high grade.
  • Do not get discouraged over a low grade.
    You can raise your grade can be raised on your next test.
  • Remember that a series of tests determine the final grade. Rising grades are much better than one that keeps getting lower.

How
to
Study

Tests
&
Exams


Essay Questions
  • Read each question carefully.
    Does the questions include keywords, such as "list," "tabulate," "explain" or "compare"?
    If it does, do what is requested, not something else.
  • Work easiest questions first.
    This will give you confidence.
  • Start with a thesis, then offer supporting material.
  • Be alert for questions that answer other questions.
  • Spell words correctly, use good English and use correct punctuation.
  • Don't write yourself into a hole. Plan ahead.
  • Write so that it can be read easily.
  • Check your answers to see if they answer the questions that have been asked. This is a very important step.

How
to
Study

Tests
&
Exams


Problem Solving
  • Read the problem carefully.
    What does the question ask for?
    What units does the instructor want the answer in?
  • Set up the problem so that it makes sense to you.
    Don't just set up a series of numbers that seemingly have no purpose.
  • When appropriate, draw a picture to help visualize the situation.
  • When converting units, set up the problem in the factor-label format--not for the teacher but for yourself.
  • Be sure you arrive at an answer with units.
  • Does the answer make sense and have the correct units asked for?
  • Can the answer be seen and recognized as the answer? Don't hide the answer.

How
to
Study

Tests
&
Exams


True-False Questions
  • Read directions. Do they want T and F, or + or - ?
  • Read questions carefully. True-false test questions are virtually impossible to ask correctly.
  • Look for key words, such as never, sometimes, usually, always:

    • A question based on never can't be true. One can never say "never" with 100% confidence.
    • A question based on sometimes usually is true.
    • A question based on usually is true most of the time.
    • A question based on always is almost always false.

How
to
Study

Tests
&
Exams


Standardized Tests
  • Read the directions carefully.
  • Is it a timed test? If so, don't worry about the time.
    Work as fast as you can and hope for the best.
  • Set up test booklet and answer sheet together so that eye movement and pencil movement are simple.
  • Mark each bubble area once or twice. Don't become a painter and spend too much time filling in the space.
  • If you can't answer a question, note it on the answer sheet and go on to the next.
  • Don't mark more than one answer unless the directions say to. The scoring machine will mark both wrong.
  • Do wrong answers count against you, or do you just not get credit?
  • If a wrong answer does not count against you, the statistics concerning multiple choice tests show that, if you can eliminate one answer, the odds are in your favor to guess. It is possible to get a grade of 50% even don't actually even know one correct answer.

How
to
Study

Tests
&
Exams


A
Final Thought
    I used to tell my students that I would use the questions at the ends of the chapters for test questions. I said that the reason I did this was because nobody had ever seen the questions. Only the real bright students ever listened to this. The others knew I was telling a falsehood. I wasn't.

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This guide last edited 12/17/2004