How common is it for someone to study and know the material and yet not do well on the test?
I don’t know actually, but I suppose it’s pretty common. This post will give you some study tips and pointers on how to study for a test.
The most important part of taking a test is making sure you know what’s on it. No point in knowing the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow if that’s not on the test.
Want to know how to instantly improve your grades and test scores? How to maximize your study time? Here’s the big secret:
Know what’s on the test … before you take the test!
“Wait a minute!” you say. “How can I know what will be on the test?”
Ah. That is the question.
There are actually quite a few sources for this information. The biggest, best and most obvious source is your teacher.
Seriously – just ask: “What exactly should I anticipate for the test? Is there anything in particular I should focus on?”
If you ask this after class or during office hours, they will nearly always give you something to go on. Take it! If they don’t … well you didn’t lose anything by trying.
Another way your teacher helps you know what will be on the test is through study guides, course outlines and previous tests.
It amazed me in school how often people would have study guides from the teacher … everything that was on the test, neatly outlined for them … and they’d still come close to flunking.
Granted, some of those things are doozies – far more than you need to know. Thing is, with study guides and course outlines, it is often easy to see which questions are more important.
One semester, I took a class on the Roman World. Each week, the professor would give us about 15-20 study questions. We had to go and find the answers within the chapters we were reading, and write them down. Easy, right?
When it came time for our first big test, I started studying by going through those questions, highlighting the ones that looked important. One of the questions was “Name five of Julius Caesar’s cultural contributions to the Roman Empire.”
“That looks important,” I thought, “and the chapter goes into quite a bit of detail on it, too.”
Sure enough, that same question was on the test.
Previous tests go hand-in-hand with your study guides and course outlines. By knowing what types of things your teacher focuses on and the types of questions he or she likes to ask, you can be even more efficient in your studies.
WARNING: Just because you think you can guess what will be on the test does not mean you shouldn’t study the rest of the information. Don’t take chances on a wrong guess hurting you before the test even starts! Study all of it, but pay special attention to those important-looking things that you’re pretty sure will be on the test.
Pay focused attention
Another great study tip, and actually the best way, long-term, to study for a test, is to pay special attention during class. But not just your normal special attention that you always pay. (You do pay attention, right?) This special attention is focused on a few things that happen during class:
- Your teacher writes something on the board
- Your teacher keeps repeating something
- Your teacher pulls up a PowerPoint slide
- Your teacher asks the class a question
- Your teacher looks back at his or her notes
- Your teacher says, “THIS WILL BE ON THE TEST!” (duh…)
Whenever you, the student paying special attention, notice one of these things, little alarms should go off in your head.
Whatever it is that the teacher is talking about or writing about or has a slide about … WRITE IT DOWN! Write it with one of those special gel pens, highlight it, put a sticker next to it, bleed on it … whatever you have to do to remind yourself, oh, this is one of those things that might be on the test.
Of course, there are a few exceptions, like if your teacher does nothing but put up PowerPoint slides. In that case, keep your eye out for something all in caps or on a page by itself.
Basically, you’re looking for an idea that’s being treated special by your teacher.
The last way you can anticipate what will be on a test is to get together with other students and ask them. Maybe someone else noticed something you didn’t. Or maybe someone has had this teacher before and knows what they like to do. Watch out, though! Study groups can often waste more time than they are worth.
Another warning: do not, under any circumstances, get a copy of the test you are studying for from someone. Sometimes your teacher will be nice and give one to you as a study guide, but you should not take one from anyone else. That is cheating. Cheating is not nice. Don’t cheat.
The key of how to study for a test is relatively simple: know what is on the test beforehand. You have three main sources, three ways to get this information:
- Your teacher (both outside of class and during class)
- Resources given to you by your teacher
- Your classmates
Congratulations! You’re now one of the select, elite few who know that greatest of secrets that can make the difference your academic career: how to study for a test.
Oh, and don’t actually bleed on anything. That was an example.
What do you think?
What are some things you’ve done to learn what’s on a test? What works? What doesn’t? Any study tips you’d like to share? Join the discussion in the comments below!