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How to do well on a final examination

How to do well on a final examination

Saying the word “final” is usually enough to bring a dreadful silence over a classroom. Final examinations can indeed be scary stuff. Studying ahead of time and getting a good night’s sleep before an exam are two good ways to defuse stress and do well. Here are five more suggestions for doing well:

1. Overprepare. That might seem like a poor way to study. But over many years of teaching, I’ve found it to be sound advice. It’s much wiser to take an exam too seriously and find it easier than you expected than to wish–when it’s too late–that you’d studied more. Think of the baseball player who swings two or three bats before stepping up to the plate. His on-deck time is what makes his work with one bat stronger.

Don’t confuse overpreparing with cramming. If you overprepare, do so in advance, so that you can get a good night’s sleep before the exam.

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2. Bring several writing instruments. If your one pen or pencil fails and you need to borrow a replacement, you’ll lose time, annoy others, and look silly.

3. Use your time wisely.

Wear a watch so that you can manage time on your own terms. Many professors and proctors will mark the time on the blackboard, but glancing at a watch is better than depending upon the click of the chalk–distracting at best, stressful at worst–that lets you know that another chunk of time has vanished.

Map out your work. When your professor talks about the exam, make sure that it’s clear how each part will count toward the whole. If, for instance, you have two hours and an essay that’s worth half the exam, give yourself an hour to plan, write, and review your essay.

It’s not unusual for students in the blur of exam week to lose track of when an exam has started and will end. So map out your work not only in minutes but with starting and ending points. Then you can’t lose track of where you are. For instance,

2:15-3:15: long essay
3:15-3:45: short essay
3:45-4:45: identifies

You can work out these details beforehand and write them discreetly in the corner of an exam booklet when you begin.

Don’t rush. This advice is especially important if your exam falls late in exam week, when many students have already left campus. Just take your time; your vacation will be waiting for you when you’re done.

4. Elaborate. If you have a choice between making a point briefly and elaborating, choose to elaborate. A professor reading a final exam is reading to “get to done”–to assign a grade and move on to the next exam in the stack. So you should show your knowledge and understanding in all appropriate ways. As I tell my students, I like reading an exam that lets me say “Okay, okay, you know the material. Enough!”

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This suggestion assumes that whatever you’re elaborating on is relevant to the question at hand. Irrelevancies won’t help your case. Nor will mere bull, which is altogether different from knowledge and understanding.

5. Don’t panic. In the worst-case exam scenario, an exam-taker goes on automatic, misreading questions, skipping key directions (e.g., “Choose only one”), and producing verbal babble as the time zooms by. It’s important to stay calm enough to focus on the work there is to do. You might visualize yourself sitting down, reading the questions, planning your responses, and doing well. Another way to avoid panicking is to remind yourself how much time you really have. A two-hour exam equals four episodes of a situation comedy–a lot of time when you look at it that way.

As this fall semester comes to an end, I’d like to thank Leon for the chance to contribute to lifehack.org. And I’d like to extend best wishes to all readers (students and faculty) contending with final exams.

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Michael Leddy teaches college English and has published widely as a poet and critic. He blogs at Orange Crate Art.

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them

Where do you want to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or even this time next year? These places are your goal destinations and although you might know that you don’t want to be standing still in the same place as you are now, it’s not always easy to identify what your real goals are.

Many people think that setting a goal destination is having a dream that is there in the far distant future but will never be attained. This proves to be a self-fulfilling prophesy because of two things:

Firstly, that the goal isn’t specifically defined enough in the first place; and secondly, it remains a remote dream waiting for action which is never taken.

Defining your goal destination is something that you need to take some time to think carefully about. The following steps on how to plan your life goals should get you started on a journey to your destination.

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1. Make a List of Your Goal Destinations

Goal destinations are the things that are important to you. Another word for them would be ambitions, but ambitions sound like something which outside of your grasp, whereas goal destinations are certainly achievable if you are willing to put in the effort working towards them.

So what do you really want to do with your life? What are the main things that you would like to accomplish with your life? What is it that you would really regret not doing if you suddenly found you had a limited amount of time left on the earth?

Each of these things is a goal. Define each goal destination in one sentence.

If any of these goals is a stepping stone to another one of the goals, take it off this list as it isn’t a goal destination.

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2. Think About the Time Frame to Have the Goal Accomplished

This is where the 5 year, 10 year, next year plan comes into it.

Learn the differences between a short term goal and a long term goal. Some goals will have a “shelf life” because of age, health, finance, etc, whereas others will be up to you as to when you would like to achieve them by.

3. Write Down Your Goals Clearly

Write each goal destination at the top of a new piece of paper.

For each goal, write down what is it that you need and don’t have now that will allow you achieve that goal. This could be some kind of education, career change, finance, a new skill, etc. Any “stepping stone” goals you removed will fit into this exercise. If any of these smaller “goals” have sub-goals, go through the same process with these so that you have precise action points to work with.

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4. Write Down What You Need to Do for Each Goal

Under each item listed, write down the things that you will need to do in order to complete each of the steps required to complete the goal. 

These items will become a check-list. They are a tangible way of checking how you are progressing towards reaching your goal destinations. A record of your success!

5. Write Down Your Timeframe With Specific and Realistic Dates

Using the time frames you created, on each goal destination sheet write down the year in which you will complete the goal by.

For any goal which has no fixed completion date, think about when you would like to have accomplished it by and use that as your destination date.

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Work within the time frames for each goal destination, make a note of realistic dates by which you will complete each of the small steps.

6. Schedule Your To-Dos

Now take an overview of all your goal destinations and make a schedule of what you need to do this week, this month, this year – in order to progress along the road towards your goal destinations.

Write these action points on a schedule, you have definite dates on which to do things.

7. Review Your Progress

At the end of the year, review what you have done this year, mark things off the check-lists for each goal destination and write up the schedule with the action points you need for the next year.

Although it may take you several years to, for example, get the promotion you desire because you first need to get the MBA which means getting a job with more money to allow you to finance a part-time degree course, you will ultimately be successful in achieving your goal destination because you have planned out not only what you want, but how to get it, and have been pro-active towards achieving it.

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Featured photo credit: Debby Hudson via unsplash.com

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