To successfully take a practice exam, you will need first to study the material and then make connections between different concepts. The following steps will help you prepare for this task:
1. Study your textbook
Read through your textbook and notes or class lecture slides, highlighting the most essential information and listing major groups of related concepts. You should be able to answer all the questions you listed in your textbook and additional questions that will focus on concepts not covered in your textbook. If you are taking an exam based on course material not covered in your textbook, you should also read through course notes and other resources.
2. Study frequently used terms
Research suggests that most people retain a greater understanding of terms when they study them within the context of a problem instead of in isolation. To do this, categorize your highlighted terms into major themes and see if you can associate each term with a specific scenario. For example, if you highlighted terms like “negative numbers” and “positive numbers” in your textbook, consider how they fit into the problem set. Sort your terms into themes and see if you can create problems that illustrate them.
3. Choose practice problems that cover different areas
You should make sure to study problems from different areas of your course. For example, if you take a calculus exam, make sure you have read and practiced problems covering derivatives, integrals, and infinite series. If you are taking a statistics exam, make sure you have read and practiced problems covering normal, probability, and sampling distributions.
4. Review your work
The last thing you want is to spend an hour on a problem that you can answer without any trouble. Make sure that you review your work for each problem and make sure that your answers show a natural progression of ideas. For example, if you have trouble understanding a concept or a calculation, review your textbook for a more accurate explanation. If you still have trouble, try solving problems in another topic or changing the format of the problem to make it easier to understand.
5. Ask your teacher questions if you don’t understand something
Asking your teacher before the exam is the best thing you can do if you don’t understand something. Don’t wait until the last minute and then hope you’re right. Work with your teacher to find ways to overcome any problem areas, or better yet, arrange for a tutoring session well in advance of the exam.
Preparation is the key to preparing yourself for exams
Preparing yourself is vital to doing well on an exam. To do so, you must be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses. By focusing on these areas in advance, you will prepare yourself for an exam in a more focused manner.
The purpose of practice exams is to find your weaknesses and focus on them as you review your class material. By taking a practice exam early in the course material, you can identify areas where you need to study more or where you have not yet grasped the concepts.