When you are a high school student, your teachers will tell you that you are being prepared for the rigors of college through their methods. Perhaps they do not know how wrong they are, but when I came to the University of Florida I found myself in quite a bind. To set the groundwork for my argument I will say that I graduated from high school in 1997 with a 4.55 weighted (3.95 unweighted) GPA which made me Summa Cum Laude and placed my twelfth in my class of 470. I thought I knew what I was doing. I thought college was going to be like taking more high school classes. I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. Boy was I in for a surprise.
Now that I have completed four college semesters and working on the fifth, I can safely say that I now know what college is all about. Surviving isnít as hard as it may seem to some of you but it isnít as easy as it looks to others. I have a History of Science (HIS 3463) midterm on Wednesday afternoon and I am terrified. Before I had the experience with tests that I accumulated over the last four semesters I would not have know how to study for a test like the one I will be facing in less than two days. Also I didnít have any older friends at UF that could have given me vital advice. For those of you who are going to college soon, or those of you who still donít have the first clue how to study for a test, I will humbly give you my advice. Studying is a process that must be tackled carefully through these steps:
1) First of all make sure you attend EVERY lecture and discussion session. This is the most valuable activity you can engage in while in college. Take careful notes for later reference and ask questions if you donít understand something.
2) Review your class notes paying attention to what has been emphasized by the instructor. Take notes on your notes so you will have a more concise and shorter version of them at hand for reference. This establishes a sound foundation for your knowledge on the subject at hand.
3) Read (or reread) sections of the text book if applicable. Take notes on your reading. Make sure to write down everything important even if it overlaps with your class notes. In general, writing something down helps you to remember it better than if you only read it.
4) If this is a math or science class that requires problem solving, practice practice practice! That is the best advice. I have had my share of these kinds of courses. The best way to know how to work any problem the professor throws at you is to know how to do the examples. Never underestimate the power of repetition!
5) If this a history class or any other class that requires essay answers you need to know how to write a good essay. I recommend the 5-paragraph method, but that is because I am a very structured person. If you are given potential topics or questions ahead of time make detailed outlines of how you would respond to them. Make lists of the information you know about each topic and make sure to memorize them if necessary. That was always necessary for me.
6) By this time you should be prepared for the exam, but you may not feel that way. Take a deep breath and remember how much you studied. You wonít do as badly as you think. I have a hard time following my own advice, which is why I am freeking out about this midterm on Wednesday.
Well, now you know my personal method I follow to prepare for a test. My system hasnít let me down too many times yet. The field that I am in sometimes doesnít let you get away with the kind of studying I do. People think it is crazy to study very hard for a test and still do badly. Of course itís not crazy Ė I do it all the time! Sometimes no amount of studying will fully prepare you for what lies ahead. Sometime a professor will give you a test over stuff you have never seen before and you studying method will fail. Donít give up! Realize that it wasnít you that failed to meet criteria, but it was the professor that failed teach. Sometimes it isnít your fault and it is important to recognize those times. Donít despair (as I often have) because there is always a way to redeem yourself. Now get off the Internet and start studying!! (I am going to join you.)