May 2, 2006

Surviving finals

by Hilary Sutton, Life! Reporter

As the semester draws to a close and students are gearing up for finals, many of us will be spending all-nighters in the computer lab, setting up shop at Panera or Starbucks, or ordering a midnight pizza in an attempt to stay awake and get our studying done. Perhaps for you, finals are something you don’t really get stressed about, although you never do quite as well as you wish you did. Or the thought of a final exam that is worth 20 percent of your grade for the semester brings to your mind fear that can only be likened to the trepidation that would exist if you were to try to outrun a wild animal. Either way, you could benefit from some test-taking tips given by the Center for Multicultural Enrichment.

Last Monday, Steve Hillis, Associate Dean of the Center for Multicultural Enrichment, presented a seminar with ten tips for test-taking. Hillis began the seminar by asking the question, “Why should you care about your grades?” He proceeded to remind the students in attendance that good grades honor God, honor parents and their monetary sacrifice, give the opportunity to justify the expense (time and money) and help with marketability in the future job market.

Hillis’ ten tips for test-taking are as follows:

1. Budget your time to give yourself adequate study time. Start studying at least a few days before the day of the test. The bigger the test, the more time you need reviewing the material. Prioritize which tests are more important. Put them on a visible calendar so you have a visual record.

2. Ask questions of the professor about anything that is unclear to you. Also look at other tests you have already had from your instructor to see how he or she tests. What kinds of questions seem to be used? Finally, find a student who is doing well in this professor’s class and ask to study with him or her.

3. Form a study sheet with the most important information on it to refer to while studying. Use markers to highlight important material. For rote memory material, type or write out important material at least five times. Remember, PRACTICE MAKES PERMANENT.

4. Join a study group with other students to discuss the information and quiz each other. This will help in retention by adding other’s perspectives (memory pegs) that you can “hang” the information on. Ask different group members to explain harder concepts in several different ways.

5. Break study sessions into manageable time segments. It will be easier to remember what you study when you focus for shorter periods of time (45 minutes to 1 hour). Do not cram! Reward yourself after study blocks. Go exercise, watch TV, eat some  chocolate or call a friend for a SHORT time (half  an hour) before hitting the books again.

6.  Do not pull an all-nighter. Get a good night’s sleep before the test. Eight hours is the recommended standard for college students. If you’ve been neglecting sleep your body will need more to catch up on lost sleep. Understand your body’s unique need for sleep. Take a powernap if needed.

7. Eat a healthy meal before the test. Fruit, honey and other foods with natural sugars are best. Foods or drinks with artificial sweeteners will give you a temporary jolt but then your body will crash. Hunger pangs will distract you during testing and will impair your focus.

8. )  Arrive at the test site early so that you can organize yourself. Bring at least two pens so that if one stops working you have a spare. Be prepared with pencils, paper, calculator, books (if appropriate), etc.

9.)  While taking a test, first do a quick scan of the whole test, especially if the instructor tells you to

do it. See where the bulk of the credit is given and what type of questions are used. Do the questions that you are most confident in to get yourself started. You do NOT have to do all the test sections in order. Often, you will find answers to earlier questions in a later section of the test.

10.)  Relax! Take deep breaths to relax tense muscles. Repeat this throughout the test to remain calm and make more energy available for remembering, thinking, and writing.

Contact Hilary Sutton at hlsutton@liberty.edu.


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