Tip: Studying for Essay Exams

When you walk into a humanities course, such as English literature, you know: there will be essay questions on every. single. test. But! No need to fret. With these tactics, you can knock those pesky essays out of the park.

Read the text before class. Participating in those class discussions can help you form an opinion of the ideas in the text. Developing a perspective and position on a topic is half of formulating a good essay. It is all about making an effective argument, regardless of your view.

When preparing, focus on analyzing and interpreting the information as you read. Reflect and ask questions: What is the significance of the text? Pick out themes, metaphors, and know why the text was written. Compare to other readings in the course, as you will likely be asked to discuss multiple texts in your essay.

During class discussions, be sure to take notes. Many teachers base exam questions on the topics touched on during these discussions. You could separate out the question, professor’s comments, and student comments in your notes to help you better remember the course of the discussion as well.

Review after class and reflect on the reading and class discussion as a whole. Did your perspective change? Figuring out exactly what you think about issues in the text can make formulating arguments on the essay exam much easier. Another way to review is by annotating the text. Identify themes and symbolism as discussed in class, marking important passages as you go.

If you follow the main ideas in discussions, you may be able to anticipate possible essay topics. If you are fairly certain of a test topic, you could outline the question for practice. Truthfully, other than doing the reading, being involved in class is probably the best way to prepare yourself for any question. As you participate, you will be forming a position on the text, which, with a bit more planning, will ensure your success on the test.

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Tip: Studying for Objective Tests

We all know that the term “multiple choice” can be a polarizing statement. On one hand, there is always a chance that you can get the question right by eliminating unlikely choices, whether you know the answer or not. The bad news? There is no partial credit. And sometimes, professors can be tricky with the questions they ask. To better prepare for potential deer-in-headlights moments, there are some study strategies you can use.

Read, take notes, and then re-read all material before the test. Make a study guide featuring a list of key points. Break down those key concepts by organizing this information around broad concepts.

Constantly review. The more you work with the material, the more likely it is that you can anticipate the questions and pick out what concepts will be tested more than others.

Self-testing is a great way to prepare for objective tests. If you have a study guide, homework, or past quizzes to look over, do it. Using problems in your textbook can be really valuable as well. Going through these problems will help you to identify what concepts you are struggling with, allowing you to then concentrate on areas of weakness. Troubleshoot those areas, work hard, think through the problems clearly on test day, and you should come out with a score you can be proud of!

Tip: Studying for Tests

Start early and do all the reading that will be tested. Complete the reading a few days before the test so that you can process the information. Take notes while you are reading at home. When test week comes, you can read through your personal notes and the notes from class.

Schedule some time each day over the week leading up to the test. Please do not try to do it all at once! Weekends are helpful for studying more than you may be able to during the week. However, don’t burn yourself out. You could get tired or discouraged instead of getting the most out of your study time.

As always, being successful means finding balance. You do not want your health or other factors outside of school to affect your educational performance. Stay healthy by eating regular meals, exercising, getting adequate sleep, and building supportive relationships.

Following a regular study routine and self-testing can prevent panic and unhealthy habits later. After self-testing, study the concepts you need the most help with again to make sure you understand the material before taking the test. There is nothing worse than walking into a test only to realize that you are unprepared.

Study groups formed with the right mix of people can be very beneficial. Breaking up the work and teaching others concepts may help you understand the material better. Engaging in discussion forces you to think about topics from different angles, which should give you a new perspective and better understanding. Even if you do not like the study group structure, you can simply study with one classmate. If you work well together, why not team up?

Another awesome trick:

If you are a commuter or an auditory learner, reading your notes and book chapters aloud, and recording your voice can be a great option. You can listen to the recordings on your daily drive or in down time between classes. Getting in that extra study time will be worth it! There is nothing worse than an hour of wasted time (daily!) because you are driving. This way you can make that lost time more productive.

People study best in different ways. Your job is to find how you best process and learn information. Once you find that perfect mix and balance, studying will no longer feel overwhelming. Your productivity and your test scores will be through the roof!