Taking Exams in College

By Shannon Gosney
In Blogging Randomness
March 31, 2011

My Business Law and Family Law classes are probably the most challenging classes I have this semester.  Not to say that Legal Aspects of Real Estate or Intro to Law are not challenging, it’s just that the instructors of the first two have higher expectations and it’s much harder to get A’s in their classes.

Right now, I have an A in Business Law – ranked #3 out of 34 students in the class – yes!  We’ve had pop quizzes in class (some open book, some not), take-home exams, and exams where we were allowed to use one sheet of paper, front and back.  Well, if you know me, you know I am a competitive person (in the positive sense of course)!  I went the distance with my one piece of paper.  I was actually impressed with it and LOVED the reaction I got from people when they looked at it – lol!  Seriously, their eyes literally bugged out when they looked at it!  In fact, my dad gave me a magnifying glass to use, since the instructor said we could.  Unfortunately, I didn’t actually use it in class because I didn’t want to be THAT person after hearing the reactions I got from fellow students!  I did manage to use some of the cheat sheet on the test.  In fact, the terms were bolded and highlighted so I could quickly reference the topics.  I was very familiar with the 10 chapters and quickly knew where the terms on the sheet were located.

Now, despite my most awesome cheat sheet, I earned an 86% on the test – dangit!  However, the class average on the exam was 82%, so I beat the class average (see, there’s that competitive spirit I was talking about)!  My goal is to keep an A in the class and possibly get to the #1 position in the class!

Even though I did earn an 86% on the test, there were some mistakes that I was warned about and could have avoided that would have given me a higher score.  So, here are some test taking tips I’ve heard and learned from real-life experience.

1 – Don’t change your answer unless you are 100% positive that the answer you are changing it to is correct. I changed two of the answers on my test, and wouldn’t you believe that I had the correct answer marked before I changed it – dangit!  So stick with your gut feeling because most of the time you will be right the first time!

2 – Don’t cram the night before the test. Most of us are guilty of procrastination, but procrastinating is not what you want to do right before an exam.  Stay caught up on your reading and, if possible, outline the chapters ahead of time – defining key terms and understanding the main objectives of the chapter.

3 – Study with yourself – OUT LOUD! What I mean by this is that I find it extremely helpful to sit in my room and read over the main terms and concepts out loud to myself.  Just by hearing it spoken, I have a tendency to remember the information better than if I were to read it silently.  Typing the words or objectives also help you to retain the information because essentially you are learning it again.

4 – If you are allowed to use a cheat sheet, maximize the opportunity! I used size 5 font on my paper with 0.4″ margins all the way around.  I managed to fit 10 chapters worth of key terms and objectives on both sides of the paper.  I bolded the terms and highlighted them as well so they were easier to find when I was searching for the answer on the exam.

5 – Be prepared! Find out if a scantron and Number 2 pencil will be needed for the exam.  You don’t want the additional stress of having to track down a scantron and pencil right before the test.

6 – Don’t rush through the exam. Look at the clock occasionally when taking your test.  Read the question thoroughly.  Read the question two or three times until you understand it.

7 – Give it your best guess! If you have absolutely no idea what the answer is, give it your best shot.  Read through the possible answers and you may recollect something from a past lecture that could help you figure out the answer.  Don’t spend a ton of time on the question if you have absolutely no idea, but do take your best guess.

8 – Don’t choose the night before to be the night you go dancing or partying. Try and get a good night’s sleep.  Although I usually find myself staying up late studying the night before a test, I probably would have done a little better on this exam had I actually had a good night’s sleep the night before.

9 – Eat breakfast the morning of (or snacks prior to) the test. You do NOT want to go in to a test with an empty and growling stomach.  You’ll find yourself distracted and thinking about food, which will cause you to take longer with the exam.

10 – Have a water bottle with you at the exam! Sometimes when I get nervous, I find that my mouth starts to feel really dry.  The last thing you want to happen is to start panicking because you have a dry mouth, which you then become fixated on.  Have a water bottle nearby and sip occasionally through the exam.  Don’t chug it because you definitely don’t want to have to get up in the middle of the exam to use the restroom!

11 – Don’t talk to classmates about the exam afterwards! We are all guilty of doing this, but all it does is create additional stress about the possible questions you answered wrong.  Just wait until the next class session to see how you actually did.

12 – Do your best! You can’t give any more than your best when it comes to testing your knowledge and what you’ve learned on the subjects being tested.  Take deep breaths and try to stay calm throughout the exam.

I was not compensated for this post.  These are test taking tips that I personally wanted to share.  All opinions expressed in this post are 100% mine.

About Has 4152 Posts

Shannon Gurnee is the author of RedheadMom formerly "The Mommy-Files", a national blog with a loyal following. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development with a Minor in Business Management. Shannon and her husband, Frank, have a large family with 6 awesome kids and love living on the Central Coast near San Luis Obispo, California, as well as traveling around the world. A full-time Social Media and Professional Blogger, Shannon also serves as a National Brand Ambassador for many well-known companies. Her blog focuses on motherhood, family fun activities, traveling, fashion, beauty, technology, wedding ideas and recipes while providing professional opinions on products, performances, restaurants, and a variety of businesses.

6 Responses to “Taking Exams in College”

  1. Auriette says:

    Okay, this just proves how many years I’ve been out of school, but what is a Scantron? I looked it up online, and I found the standardized multiple choice forms, but when I was in school, if the test used one of those forms they were provided for us. We occasionally were required to use a special blue-covered book for essay tests, and I think I had to buy those myself, but the professor would say that during the class session before the exam.

  2. Kayla says:

    Those are all great tips and I can tell you for sure, I’m going to use them all! LOL

    Congrats on your 86%! I know you wanted an A, but that percentage is pretty darn good if you ask me! I’d take it 😉 (although truth be told, I’d want the A too!).

    Speaking of cheat sheets, you should have seen mine when I was in Biology-It was a lot like yours actually; I should find a picture of it! LOL

  3. Ann Marie Walker says:

    Thanks for the great tips! BTW it sounds like you are doing wonderful, even though it wasn’t as high as you wished. I know what you mean though. I go to college and I have very high expectations for myself and try to ace it all. It drives me nuts if I don’t. I can’t wait until I’m finished. I’m almost there. I have just alittle over a year to go before I’m an elementary teacher :).

  4. Kailee Adams says:

    I took Business Law last Spring and I lovvvedd it! It was very challenging, but also one of the most interesting classes I’ve taken!!!

  5. ellen says:

    No clue what a scantron is either! But then too when I was in college they barely had computers (I used one of the first ones in computer lab) And for sure studying makes a difference- I used to use index cards and quiz myself over and over in classes that were bears. Stats was my nightmare!

  6. Jennifer Young says:

    LOL on the “one sheet of paper” thing! My husband just finished his summer school classes (Criminal Justice) and he did the same thing on his final that he could use one sheet of paper! He actually copied some pages of his book and shrank them down to put on his paper. I told him that all the effort he took in making his paper he could have just studied the material more, haha! 🙂

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