Top 6 Exam Strategies for College Students

For many students, re-reading one’s notes is considered adequate review for an exam. While such preparation is admirable and encouraged, simply reading over notes silently does not make for a sound review strategy. The best review strategies involve active repetition of material in a multimodal fashion. Consider one of these additional strategies to go along with usual silent self-read of material:

  1. Read your notes aloud. Whether this involves you reading the notes in the privacy of your room or taking turns in a study group as you read the examples or definitions, reading aloud adds an auditory aspect to your studying. Furthermore, reading aloud and then trying to complete the definition, phrase, or list allows you to get immediate feedback; all you have to do is refer back to your notes.
  2. Rewrite and/or reorganize your notes. Writing and rewriting add a kinesthetic component to the review process. In addition, the process of rewriting notes gives you the chance to paraphrase ideas in more comfortable language you can better remember. Reorganizing the material in your notes, either through writing new lists or creating visual “maps” of information allows you to develop new ties within the pool of information, which can make your review more meaningful and varied.
  3. Take the time to write up summaries of your notes. This could be in short paragraphs, a bulleted list of topics, or a series of concept maps that demonstrate how the smaller details fit into the overall idea.
  4. Form a collaborative learning team where group members take turns teaching each other portions of the material in a round-robin discussion format. Collaborative learning teams focus on a common goal and share responsibility in the preparation and sharing of the material, and they can meet as informal work sessions in the library, the ASC, or in the residence halls.
  5. Use sample exams, either those provided by the instructor or those made available via the book publisher’s website. Sample exams provide immediate feedback and can quickly assess those topics and concepts that require more review. Sample exams may also be done as part of a group study session where students quiz each other out loud, or students can create their own questions and challenge other group members to answer the questions.
  6. Rework homework and quizzes, especially those that required correction. For courses where you are expected to solve a problem and demonstrate a process, practicing problems is a comprehensive review strategy that provides immediate feedback on your progress. To take full advantage of this method, write out the problem solving process as either a series of steps or a short paragraph to practice verbalizing the method for solution.

Regardless of the review strategy that you choose, it is important to incorporate at least two channels of learning into your reviewing exercises. Aural, kinesthetic, reading, and visual learning styles can all be accommodated with a carefully chosen review strategy; engaging in a multimodal review where you can check and receive instant feedback provide the most comprehensive study experience possible.

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