3/01/2016

How to study with sample exams

Hey, everybody!
As my next exams are just around the corner, I started studying more specifically. That means, that I am not just repeating lesson's content but actually focussing on the questions and problems, I am going to face in the exam. My studying basicaly consist of two parts; (next to doing homwork and stuff I have to do every day after school) active recall and studying with exam- like questions.

Today, I want to talk about the seccond one. It is obviously no secret, that it will certainly improve your knowledge of a problem, if you do a lot of example questions and solve exam- like problems. What most students, however, do in realizing this thought is not very effective. A lot of students use to just grab their stuff and do some example questions, without any particular structure, often with interruptions and while having the theretical answers of the questions opened next to them.
This way of studying creates a high risk of you betraying yourself about your knowledge, When you can check any fact in your textbook or answer sheet, you are likely to just being reminded of the facts instead of really memorizing and recalling them.

The way to escape this risk is a method, I got taught about by a blog post of Thomas Frank, another studying guru. In that, he talks about acing exams in general, but what I want to focus on is his so- called 'Exam Cycle' and especially his idea of how to work with practice exams.
I am doing it this way:

  1. First of all, I create a sample exam. For this, I usually look for fitting texts or articles in the internet, that deal with or about the topic, I am dealing with in class. I try to find texts as close as possible to to the text, I expect in the exam to come up. After having found this text, I formate it in a text editor and write questions or tasks about the text as similar as appearing in exams.
  2. Then (usually the next day) I do this self- created exam. In doing so, I try to build up conditions as close to the exam conditions as possible. I keep care, that I have the time, I am going to have in the exam and can work continously without any interruptions. I prepare my desk by only putting paper and pen on it and removing anything study- related. Then, I set an alarm for the time and start to work. I try to make myself believe, I am working on an actual exam, trying as hard as possible till the time is over.
  3. After that (usually the next day after this) I take out the written practice exam and a red pen. and correct it. In doing so, I try to be as stern and correct as possible, marking any mistake and especially writing down improvement proposals. At the end of every 'section' I summarize my mistakes and possible ways of improvement as well as at the very end of the whole exam.
I am doing two to three of this practice exam for each upcoming exam, about 8 and 4 days before, 
according to the days, when I have enough time to do a practice exam.

This way, I am not only training myself for the exam, I am also able to reveal certain mistakes and specific needs for improvement. As I do not have my studying papers laying next to me, I have to figure out everything by myself. This way, I can examine my mistakes, especially after having corrected the paper. 

I realized this method to be way more effective than just doing tons of sample exams without any significant improvement.
I hope, you found that blog post helpful and learned something and I will see you tomorrow!

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