SOCI 101 – Introduction to Sociology
Study Tips


Tips for Preparing for Exams

A. Do not wait until the night before an exam to study! Of course, you should be regularly reviewing your notes, but the preparation still takes time.

B. A good first step in preparation is to read through your notes a couple of times. While you are doing this, you might also

1. Highlight major topics and subtopics, with the goal of generating an outline of your notes. Even if you take your notes in outline form, this is a good practice. Major topics often extend through more than one day's lecture, and it is easy to lose track of the overall picture from day to day.

2. With a second color, highlight all vocabulary terms.

C. Outline the entire set of notes. When you study a large body of information, you should study from concept to detail, not the other way around. It will, in fact, be much easier to learn the details if you take the time to learn the concept and theory first. The least efficient approach to studying is to attempt to memorize your notes from beginning to end. It's not the words which are important--it's the ideas.

D. Consider ways of dealing with the information other than those used in class. The more ways you can manipulate and experience the material you are trying to learn, the more secure your understanding and memory will be. Some suggestions:

1. Make charts, diagrams and graphs.
2. Make lists.
3. If the subject matter includes structures, practice drawing those structures. Remember that a drawing is useless unless the important structures are labeled.

E. There are almost always types of information which you will have to memorize (eg. vocabulary). No one has ever invented a better device for memorizing than flash cards.

F. One of the most universally effective ways to polish off your study activities is to prepare a self test.

1. Challenge yourself as severely as you can.
2. As you are studying, keep a running collection of "exam questions." If you seriously attempt to write difficult and meaningful questions, by the time you finish you will have created a formidable exam. When you begin to feel you're ready for your instructor's exam, take out your questions and see if you can answer them. If you can't, you may need to go back and reinforce some of the things your are trying to learn.

G. Never, ever pull an "All-Nighter" on the night before an exam. This is a "freshman trick," meaning that good students learn very quickly that it is futile. What you may gain from extra study time won't compensate for the loss of alertness and ability to concentrate due to lack of sleep.

H. On exam day:

1. Try not to "cram" during every spare moment before an exam. this only increases the feeling of desperation which leads to panic, and then to test anxiety. You may find it useful, on the night before an exam, to jot down a few ideas or facts which you wish to have fresh in your mind when you begin the exam. Read through your list a couple of times when you get up in the morning and/or just before you take the exam, then put it away. This kind of memory reinforcement not only improves your performance on the test, it also improves your long-term memory of the material.

2. Be physically prepared.

a. Get a good night's sleep.
b. If in class, bring necessary writing materials to the test--at least 2 writing tools, erasers, blue books if necessary, calculators if appropriate and allowed. Be aware of what the instructor has specified as permitted for use. Some instructors object to exams written pencil; some prohibit use of tools like calculators. It is your responsibility to know these requirements; you should be prepared to take the consequences if you don't.
c. If online, be sure you have a stable internet connection, and that you will have "alone time" for the duration of the exam. Avoid distractions and annoyances (TV, radio, siblings/children, pets, etc.).
d. This may seem silly, but go to the bathroom just before the exam. Don't expect your teacher to let you leave to do this during the test (or that you wiull have spare time during an unproctored online exam)! The tension which generally goes along with taking an exam may increase the need to perform this physical activity, so you may need to go, even though you don't particularly feel like it.

adapted from: http://www.cod.edu/people/faculty/fancher/study.htm