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Some Final Advice

female student reading a book

Have you ever wondered if there is a universally-proven, “correct” way to study or prepare for college exams? Parul Shah, assistant director of tutorial services in the Learning Assistance Center at Howard Community College, offers a few best practices for students who are seeking ways to study better, smarter, and more efficiently:

  • Take good, handwritten notes ahead of time. Staying focused during class lectures and taking detailed notes is the first step to preparing yourself for the exam that will eventually come. You will also significantly increase the likeliness that you will retain the information presented in class if you take handwritten rather than typed notes. So set the laptops and tablets aside and come to class with a simple notepad and pen in hand, for best results.
  • Review your notes, even when there is no exam on the horizon. Research shows that students who take the time to review (and even better, rewrite) their notes within 24 hours are likely to retain 80 percent of the information. The exam may be a few weeks out but keeping key facts, stats, and other notes top of mind right away will pay off when exam day does finally come.
  • Explain the information to yourself, in your own words. Repeatedly reading information doesn’t necessarily mean that you have learned it, or processed it to the point of true understanding. Find a quiet room and explain the information you are likely to be tested on, to yourself, out loud, and in your own words. Can you fully articulate the key concepts in a way that makes sense or do you get stuck? If you can explain it correctly, chances are good that you will answer a question about it correctly on your exam.
  • Don’t procrastinate. Cramming study hours in at the last minute or trying to concentrate on one topic for an extended period of time is the enemy of the long-term memory! Practice good time management skills by mapping out a study plan well in advance of exam day. Allow yourself enough time to learn, review, and re-review, one concept at a time. Having a plan and sticking to it will reduce your stress and anxiety, and will assure you go into an exam feeling prepared and confident.
  • Note your worries and concerns … then toss them. Take a little time to think about what worries or concerns you most, heading into a big exam. Jot these thoughts down and then literally toss that piece of paper into the trash. This is a way to physically remind yourself that you have put in the time, done the hard work, and will in fact, perform well.

Parul suggests that students spend two to three hours studying per week, per credit hour registered for. This means that a student who is taking 12 course credits during a given semester should be devoting an additional 24 to 36 hours of time, outside of the classroom, to course work and exam preparation.

As you are studying for final exams, don’t lose track of your long term goals. Whether you are looking to earn a degree or certificate, or transfer to a 4-year school, it is important to make sure you have a plan to earn the credits you need. Be sure to get advised and don’t wait until the last minute to register for classes – visit howardcc.edu/register.

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