Information Organization, Memorization, and Interest & Attention
During the process of test preparation, important information from the notes, labs, and readings should be reduced to the bare essentials and organized into different formats. Organizing information makes it easier to register in and recall from memory the material. It also provides a structure for answering test questions, especially for essay exams. So prior to the test, put the material to be learned and remembered into a format that one can relate to and remember (D. Applegate, CAL).
Students have a wide range of organizational strategies from which to choose. These are described in detail in the Information Organization section of the Organization page. Examples of organizational formats are:
The formats used will depend on individual learning styles, the nature of the information (e.g. Is it science, history, arts? Is it concepts, numbers, people?), and the type of test questions (e.g. essay, multiple choice, etc.).
Color coding is another helpful organizational tool for test preparation. One of the most common applications of color coding is using highlighters to prioritize information. This involves marking the most important ideas to be remembered from the notes and readings. The key to making highlighting effective is to be very selective in what is marked. Avoid ending up with pages of solid yellow or pink highlighting. Focus on the main ideas and the key words of definitions and explanations.
Another use of color coding is to categorize information. Ideas related to one topic may be coded with one color, and ideas related to another topic in a second color. This helps one to discern relationships among separate pieces of information.
Or, all terms may be marked in one color, all names of significant people in another color, all dates in another color, and so on.
Use three-ring notebooks to organize notes, handouts, study guides, practice tests, copies of old exams, and other study materials. Keeping the study materials in one place makes it easier to find things when needed during exam preparation.
Every test involves, in fact necessitates, memorization to some extent. Tests in introductory courses are often designed to evaluate the students' ability to remember details and concepts. Tests is advanced courses, on the other hand, may require more interpretation and application than memorization.
Memory strategies are discussed at length in the Memory page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack. Only some of the main points related to test preparation are outlined here (D. Applegate, CAL).
Paraphrase the information
Focus on key words
Use a variety of memory techniques
Interest and Attention
Sometimes one of the most difficult things about test preparation is maintaining interest and motivation for studying. It's not always easy to maintain attention on and motivation for the various tasks involved in test preparation. The following tips may help in such situations. For more details on these topics, refer to the Attention and Concentration page and the Motivation page.
Attitude is everything. Unfortunately, a positive attitude is often the most difficult thing to maintain when one dislikes the subject, resents the instructor, or has a history of poor test performance. Try to maintain a sound outlook on the test by engaging in positive self-talk. Work with another student and try to encourage each other. Avoid study partners who consistently express negative views since such attitudes are often contagious. Realize that tests are necessary evils.
Attention and Concentration
Select appropriate places to study. To maintain attention, study in a room that is free from distractions like noise, windows, and wall hangings. To aid concentration, choose a harmonious environment with appropriate temperatures, adequate ventilation and light, and comfortable seats. Try studying in the test room if possible. Attend to health by eating right and getting enough rest. Maintain an optimal level of activity; both too much and too little activity lessons one's capacity to pay attention and remember material.
To generate and maintain interest in the subject matter, relate the information to personal experiences and beliefs. Ask other students what they know about the topic. Get information from a variety of sources outside the textbook or lecture; try movies, magazines, and newspapers for example. Apply the new knowledge to other classes. Actively use the new knowledge.
Get motivated to prepare effectively for the test by considering personal short-term goals (e.g. pass the test without throwing up) and long-term goals (e.g. receive a B in the course, graduate from school) that will be met by preparing effectively for the test. Divide the task into smaller parts, and prioritize the activities to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Reward oneself when tasks are completed. Allow time in one's schedule for recreation and relaxation. Develop an intentionality to the preparation tasks; a deliberate manner will facilitate studying and remembering.