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How to Study for a Test or Final

Work in Groups and Test Yourself!

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Teen girl doing homework in kitchen
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The end of the term is drawing near, and that means final exams are looming. How can you give yourself an edge this time around? The most important thing you can do is give yourself plenty of time to prepare. Then follow this simple plan:

  • 1) Study
  • 2) Test yourself with a practice test
  • 3) Discover your weak areas
  • 4) Study again
  • 5) Test yourself again

That’s the simplified version. For really great results on your finals:

Start Early

Gather together all the material you’ve received during the term. You probably have handouts, notes, old assignments, and old tests. Don’t leave anything out.

Read through your class notes twice. Some things will sound familiar and some things will sound so unfamiliar you’ll swear they were written by somebody else. That’s normal.

Establish a Study Group or Partner

Schedule at least one meeting time with a study partner or study group. If you absolutely can’t get together, then exchange email addresses. Instant messages will work well, too.

You could also consider communicating through an online forum like the Homework / Study Tips forum.

Use Old Tests

Collect your old exams from the year (or semester) and make a photocopy of each one. White out the test answers and copy each one again. Now you have a set of practice tests.

For best results, you should make several copies of each old exam and keep taking the tests until you score perfectly on each one.

Note: you can’t white out the answers on the original, or you won’t have an answer key!

Build Up Your Class Notes

Organize your notes by date (do the best you can if you didn’t date your pages) and make note of any missing dates/pages.

Get together with a study partner or group to compare notes and fill in any missing material. Don’t be too surprised if you missed key information from the lectures. Everybody zones out once in a while.

After you organize your new set of notes, underline any key words, formulas, themes, and concepts.

Make yourself a new practice test with fill-in sentences and term definitions. Print out several tests and practice several times. Ask the members of your study group to make practice tests as well. Then swap.

Old Assignments

Gather any old assignments and re-do the exercises.

Many textbooks have exercises at the end of every chapter. Review those until you can answer every question with ease.

Use Different Textbooks

If you’re studying for a math or science exam, find another textbook or study guide that covers the same material that you’ve studied this term. You can find used books at yard sales, used book stores, or in the library.

Different textbooks will provide you with different explanations. You might find one that makes something clear for the first time. Other textbooks can also give you a new twist or fresh questions on the same material. That's exactly what your teacher will do on the final!

Invent Your Own Essay Questions

For history, political science, literature, or any theory class focus on themes. Read your notes again and mark anything that looks like it would serve well as an essay question. Which terms make good comparisons? For example, what terms could a teacher use as a “compare and contrast” question?

Try coming up with your own long essay questions by comparing two similar events or similar themes.

Have your friend or study partner come up with essay questions and compare.

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