Preparing for the Final Exam

At the end of the term, I usually spend at least part of one class period going over nothing but how to most effectively prepare for my final exam. Because it’s a comprehensive exam and worth 20% of the final grade, it is pretty important that students know how to most effectively prepare. With that in mind, I offer them the following advice.

  1. Review the textbook. Go back through end-of-chapter review questions, and determine if you truly understand the material. If you do, then move forward!
  2. Compound your study time. Follow the 10-2-3 minute strategy that I discuss at the beginning of the semester. Start with 10 minutes of new material, take a 2-minute breather or break, then 3 minutes of review of what you just learned. Keep adding to review as you build in new materials. It increases memory and improves connections for your brain.
  3. Know how to take each type of test. Knowing what to expect with a multiple choice, true/false, or open response exam can drastically help you prepare more effectively. I generally offer a brief overview of what to expect, in terms of the number of questions and format.

For each of the types of tests I offer, I usually suggest a few tips, as well.

For multiple choice exams:

  • Read the actual question first. By knowing what you need, you are more likely to find the right response. The actual question usually is the LAST thing in the paragraph–check it first!
  • Read the scenario second. Once you know the question, look closely at the scenario, then determine what’s important from the information provided. See if you can find the answer from this information.
  • Answer the question. Try to respond to the question without looking at the options given. If your initial response is the same as one of the options, it’s a pretty good chance that it’s a match!

For open response exams:

  • Read the question carefully. If the question asks for lists or diagrams, that’s very different than writing a 5-paragraph essay. In the same line of thinking, you don’t want to respond with a bullet point list of topics if the question asks for descriptions. Look for key words to help you determine how to organize or respond most effectively.
  • Look back through the test. Sometimes, that word you are struggling to remember may actually be in other questions or in a different question, especially if (like me) your instructor uses different types of questions in each exam.
  • Make connections to other materials. Open responses are designed for students to demonstrate what they know and how it relates to other materials in the course (or in life). Be sure that you show how ideas connect and link to one another.
  • Check spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Make sure you are communicating effectively. As I tell my students, I am a former English major, and I teach communication now. That means I take clear information seriously; if I have to guess what a student means by a message, it’s not clear.

Although this isn’t exhaustive, it’s a good way for you to more effectively prepare.

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