Know The Test Weeks Before You Take It

They say that you're not supposed to cram for a test the night before. After all, unless you have a relative who's an expert in the area, you could be stuck at a diner at 4 A.M. trying to teach yourself mitosis. That would not be fun, and there's a way to get started before you even attend your first seminar or assignment.

Many, many bits of academia are rehashes or syntheses of what came before, and college professors are no different. So most professors use their syllabus to adapt to the texts that are available. New ones may even use course information from a previous professor. That means that they are much less likely to go off the reservation and teach things that aren't explained on the course materials. So, now that you can relax a bit, let's take a few steps to get you on your way:

  1. Read over your syllabus and note where the exams and papers are. Make a few columns on a piece of paper, and list the test date on top of each, then each of the topics covered. This is an overview and a good start to a study guide. Be sure to leave space, about two lines, for the next step.
  2. If you have access to your reading materials, check the sections that are being assigned by your instructor. Many will have reviews at the end of the chapters, or a few bolded sections. Try noting these under the topics so that you can get yourself on course.
  3. As you're skimming, make sure that you could get close to understanding the topics by taking the course. If everything seems foreign, you may want to consider dropping the course, unless of course it actually is a foreign language. If there are a few sections, be sure to star them so you know for later.

When you begin taking the course, you already have a good overview. When the instructor is showing something, or having you do a reading, you can be sure that you'll need to keep track of it if it is one of the topics you have on your list. This allows you to focus on what matters for the test before worrying about other areas the instructor may cover. Good luck!

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Data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics. The data displayed is compiled from the most recent sources available. For public schools this is the 2015-2016 school year. For private schools this is the 2015-2016 school year.

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