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Exams: Shifting Mindset about Exam Preparation

studying

At Weingarten, we often get questions about preparing for exams:

But, how do I know if I have studied enough?

is a familiar refrain from students in our workshops. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. One thing we don’t recommend is the practice of “cramming,” or intense studying for a few days or a few hours before an exam. When cramming for a test, you are only learning in the sense that information goes into short term memory, meaning that you may or may not retain the information on test day — and you definitely won’t be able to use the information for any “real-life” application or situation down the road, such as a job, research fellowship, or summer internship.

Instead, preparing for exams starts at the beginning of the semester. From the first week of class, you should be engaging with active study strategies, and setting aside time to review. But what do we mean by “active study”?

  1. First, create a plan for yourself.
    • If you are not used to setting your own schedule, don’t be to discouraged if you go off course.
    • Notice where you might need to make adjustments.
    • Each week is a new opportunity to create a plan for when you will study and stick to it!
  2. Next, make sure you are spending some of your study hours going back and reviewing old material.
    • For classes focused on problem-solving, this may mean going back to old concepts that caused you difficulty.
    • The trick is finding new problems to keep you mentally active, instead of reading over old problems and their solutions.
  3. Finally, Weingarten is here to help you succeed!
    • Interested in making a one on one appointment with a learning instructor or attending a workshop? You can find more information here.

What is one thing you can do this week 

to make a positive change in your study habits?

Also, check out this great archived blog entry, Making It Stick, which is packed with active study strategies and ideas for visual learners.

By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow, Office of Learning Resources, Weingarten Learning Resources Center, UPENN.

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