The Study Dude—Exam Prep Tips

Tiny tricks help you ace exams.  For instance, memorizing textbook facts word-for-word can get the A.  Also, studying steadily can psyche you into clear-headedness come exam time.  And avoiding lazy profs can get you better grades.  But the master exam hack?  Get prior years’ exams.

Let’s delve further into the above tricks:

First, exams might use answers taken word-for-word from textbooks.  A psychology course had exam questions straight from the textbook.  So, I memorized facts word-for-word.  Later, when students complained about the test’s toughness, the prof said the top student (me) finished each test within the first fifteen minutes.  The class groaned.

But then the prof asked me to give a test tip.  So, I said the correct answers use the exact textbook wording.  After that, student grades shot up.  The prof, miffed, threw sand, adding exam questions based on lectures alone.

Second, steady studying trains your brain to keep calm exam-time.  During an actuarial (math) exam, I couldn’t solve a single question the first run-through.  But, prior to the exam, I spent over fifty hours each week solving math problems.  So, working steadily—and calmly—to grasp math was second-nature.   I passed with an A-minus.

Interestingly, the same psychology applies in MMA or boxing.  The more you calmly practice, the more that focus carries into the ring.

That’s why cramming fails to yield top exam results.  Cramming at home, you spend less time solving, more time stressing.  That stressed mindset sneaks into the exam-room.

Third, stay clear of lazy profs’ exams.  One math prof tested using numbers he whipped up last minute.  As a result, the exam answers had long roots, even unreal numbers.  Not one clean answer.  As a result, every student second-guessed their answers.  So, stay clear of lazy profs; they skyrocket stress-hormones test-time.

Fourth, get prior years’ exams.  Tony Roe shows the art of using prior years’ exams for top test results.  Her reveals his trick in his book Effortless Learning: Learn the Secrets That Teachers Never Told You: The 7 Steps to Master any Subject, Memorize More and Focus Fast (While Studying Less):

  • Before you get your hands on prior years’ tests, know the learning objectives: “To master the art of answering questions, you must know what the learning objectives are” (Location 1531, 68%)
  • And know all the required formulas: “To find the answer, you will need to master the different type of formulae and how they work with each other” (Location 1544, 69%).
  • Then get your hands on prior years’ tests: “Try to get all the past year questions and other school exam papers. In order that you master all the questions, it’s essential that you take all the questions and classify them into the various formulae” (Location 1562, 69%).
  • Next, dissect each question from prior years’ exams into steps: “You will be required to write down the necessary steps in doing the questions” (Location 1593, 71%).
  • After that, list the learning objectives. Then list the questions from prior years’ exams that correlate with each learning objective.  “I took the past year papers and looked at all the questions and classified them to the … objectives” (Location 1581, 71%).
  • Then, for each learning objective, do only three related questions: “You don’t need to do all the questions but would just need to do around 3 questions that test you on the similar questions” (Location 1627, 72%).
  • Why only three questions? “You don’t learn anything from doing the same questions over and over again” (Location 1627, 72%).
  • Lastly, don’t get discouraged if you don’t know the answers straight-away: “At first, you may not know how to answer a single question …. But the crucial part is, after looking at the solutions, you must be able to understand the solution, and then do it by yourself” (Location 1609, 72%).

Decades ago, I wrote most of a Wikihow post on how to pass math tests.  Most of what I wrote remains intact today.  Yet, I also wrote Wikihow tips on how to be happy.  But my happy tips disappeared the next day.  And don’t ask about my beauty tips.  They got wiped away faster than mascara during a good cry.