Most students dread exams. Have you ever wondered why? After all, they took notes as they attended class every day. They spent hours studying the material. Shouldn’t they be excited to show what they know? Unfortunately, this is not the case for the majority of test takers. Lack of preparation, nervousness, and self-doubt can make them forget much of what they studied. If you are a student, don’t let this happen to you. Here are some tips that will help you overcome test anxiety when midterm season arrives.
Before the Exams
According to Learning Solutions Magazine, people forget half of what they learn within the first hour. If they don’t review, they will forget an additional 20 percent by the next day. At the end of the week, a whopping 90 percent is gone. Don’t worry; there is a way to retain more information.
Here’s a tip: Read the material that you will cover in class in advance. Why try to learn something before your instructor teaches it? By doing so, you mentally prepare yourself to identify the important themes of the subject matter. You can take advantage of class time to ask questions about anything you didn’t understand. You can also familiarize yourself with vocabulary words so you will know what they mean when your teacher uses them.
Here’s a tip: Review for ten minutes after every class. Reread your notes. Quiz yourself or a friend. Make up a song, rhyme, or another type of mnemonic. Think about how the new knowledge connects with what you already know. Revisiting the information in some way will drastically improve your ability to remember it on test day.
Here’s a tip: At the beginning of each unit, schedule a time each week for a general review. Find ways to practice or apply what you learn in real life. Make sure you do your homework. Believe it or not, homework is not “busy work.” Most homework assignments revolve around concepts covered on the exam. Completing it will help you practice the skills you need to master.
During The Exam
It’s too late to study! There are only two things left to do: try to control your nerves and remember what you studied.
Here’s a tip: Decide whether to answer the difficult or the easy questions first. On one hand, getting the hardest questions out of the way will make the rest of the exam seem less intimidating. On the other hand, finishing the easiest questions can give your confidence a needed lift. Use whichever strategy helps you feel the most relaxed.
Here’s a tip: Sit where you always sit. Researchers discovered a phenomenon called state-dependent learning. They found that people remember more information when they recreate the environment in which they first learned it.
Essay tests pose special challenges. It’s not enough to know the answer; you have to be able to explain the concept in writing. Follow these two pointers to score well on written tests.
Here’s a tip: How does the question read? Does it ask you to compare, contrast, or critique? If so, make sure to do what the question asks. Before you start writing, list the main points you plan to cover in your essay while they are fresh in your mind. Otherwise, you may inadvertently leave out a key element.
Here’s a tip: No matter how well you write, you will not succeed on essay exams if you veer off topic. Refer to the writing prompt. In the case of an essay question, answer it directly. Get right to the point! State your main point up front, and then supplement your claims with examples and citations.
Here’s a tip: Don’t bluff. Rather than guess at a figure, give your best approximation. For example, you might remember that World War II began in the late 1930s. It’s preferable to use this estimate than to guess an incorrect year.
Is an essay part of your midterm requirements? It’s best to work on it throughout the semester. But what if you’ve waited until the last few days before the end of the term?
Here’s a tip: Select your topic based on the research available to you. If you have limited time, you don’t want to spend it looking for hard-to-find articles on an obscure topic. Choose a broad topic that has lots of supporting documentation. If you have access to a library, find a topic that is supported by current print sources because many teachers find them more authoritative than online sources.
Here’s a tip: Spend a few minutes making a simple outline. You aren’t wasting your time. Once you have the structure of your paper in mind, the process will flow quickly. You’ll avoid wasting time developing portions of your topic that you later reject.
Does the first day of class seem like just yesterday? It’s almost time for midterms already.
With a little preparation, you can avoid feelings of unease. It doesn’t take much time to read a chapter before class or review your notes after each class session. When you review at the end of a week, you will find that you can recall most of the information. You’ll be more confident on test day, especially if you sit in your normal seat. If an essay determines your grade, make a simple outline on a topic you know well. Apply these simple pointers and you might find yourself looking forward to midterms!