College Monday: Studying for the First Exam

The first few weeks of college are over (where did the time go??) and this means that the first exams are starting. The first exam is always the hardest in college because you don't know what each professor is going to ask and how they're going to ask it.

It's perfectly normal to not do as well as usual on the first exam. Here are some tips on how to study to make it less stressful and make sure you're as prepared as you can be.

Listen to the professor closely
Some professors will tell you certain things that will definitely be on the exam or the kinds of things they ask. My business professor told us that the first exam will have a lot of short-answer questions. My psychology professor warned us that we need to know all the cranial nerves. Make note of all these things so that you can target your studying to what's most important. If they show a lot of emphasis on something but don't state straight-out that it's going to be on the exam, chances are it might and you should pay close attention to those notes.

Study the book
Skim through the chapters that the exam is going to cover again. If you took written notes, study those too. If there are review questions in the book, give them a try and see what you know and what you might need to study a little more. 

Study the lectures
Look through all your lecture notes. If you recorded the lectures, listen to them again and see if there's anything that's overly stressed in a way that indicates that you really need to know that section.The amount of things in the lecture on the exam depends on the professor. I've had professors do exams almost entirely based on lectures and professors who didn't really test on anything that wasn't in the book.

Make flashcards
Use index cards to quiz yourself on key terms in the chapters. This works better for some subjects than others, but it's a great study tool. Once you get them all down, you can ask a friend to quiz you on them again. 

Do the study guide
If the professor gives you a study guide for an exam, DO IT.  Not a lot of professors will do this so it's always great when you get one that does. I don't recommend just studying what's on the study guide (freshman year I had a professor that gave us a study guide and then barely tested us on what was on it), but it gives you a great guide to target your studying on the most important points.


Nickie said…
I'll add to this -- go to office hours, and don't just go on the day before the exam. It was my experience that so few students actually go to office hours that most professors are willing to give some crazy big pointers on tests, homework, and quizzes that you would never get in class. Good luck on the first round of your tests!

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