Freshman’s Guide: Studying For Your First Exam

It’s a few weeks into your first year of college and the first college exam of your life is a few days away.  You will soon discover how important time management will be to your college career. There are many possible mistakes you can make. The worst is neglecting the exam and doing little to no studying. However, spending too much time studying for one class can be harmful as well. You need to discover a balance between the two to become a successful test taker.

Many incoming freshman are anxious to find out how different college classes are different from high school classes. Many people tell you about how much harder college is while others may tell you how much easier it is. The real answer lies somewhere in between. How my peers and I feel about college grades in general is that the more time you spend studying directly correlates to the grade you receive for that class. And by studying I mean focused studying, not while watching TV or talking with friends. You need to find a place where you can be an efficient student without outside distractions.

Speaking of places to study, this is just as important as how much time you spend studying. I personally find the Wells library the best place to study, either alone or with a group. There are always available computers, couches and tables. I prefer Wells over my lounge because of limited distractions. In my floor lounge, there are usually other people working on different classes. This could easily lead to side conversations that last a while (I can attest to this). Study groups are a great way to study but that only helps if you are studying for the same thing. If Wells is too far or inconvenient for you, there are computer labs in the Memorial Union as well. If your dorm center building has a computer lab or empty classrooms, that could be a more convenient option. There are also many buildings with empty, unlocked classrooms too, so there are always quiet spaces available.

Now, what exactly should you study? Easily the best resource to use is prior tests. Many teachers put old tests on Oncourse or hand them out in class. These are great representations of what actual exams are like. I would recommend exhausting these exams to master the material. Now, I’ll be honest, many textbooks can be very boring and even unhelpful for studying for some exams. Some teachers rely on the textbook more than others. Taking notes in class can be helpful because you will get a sense if the teacher relies on the textbook material or on their own lectures to make tests.

One last tip: Come into a test relaxed and healthy. There are numerous times where I cram till the last minute before a test and I burn out midway through the test. Make sure you sleep enough, eat regularly and drink water. A burnt out brain will not help you no matter how much how studied.

Hopefully you can take your first exam without any major regrets. It’s not a terrible experience and you’ll get used to it quickly. Just make sure to get into the habit of preparing properly early so you can be set by the time finals come around (that’s when these skills help the most!).

- Ayaz Ghesani 

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