Explore potential strategies.
Students lack effective exam-taking strategies.
Many students approach exam taking like reading a novel. They start at the beginning and answer questions in the order without first previewing the exam. As a result, they often don’t distribute their time effectively, and end up rushing through questions or not answering them at all.
Encourage students to look over the entire exam first and develop a general plan for how much time to spend on each question or exam section. Encourage them to focus on easy questions first as a way to build confidence and ease their way into the exam. Alternatively, they may want to start with questions with a high point value, to make sure they have sufficient time to answer them. For essay questions or questions that require students to synthesize across topics, suggest that they take the time to outline the structure of their answer first, making note of what information or processes they will use to construct their answer.
Encourage students to try a sample exam in a timed format, as similar as possible to the real exam. Have them analyze their performance – what problems took the most time, were the instructions difficult to understand, were there questions or problems that they weren’t prepared for or that took a lot of time? Students can use this feedback to adjust their study strategies or seek additional help.
After exams are returned, encourage students to reflect on their own exam strategies and performance to identify areas of weakness and strength and to develop strategies that will better prepare them for taking exams in the future.
If your exam has different sections (e.g., short answer, essay, problems), provide rough guidelines of how much time students should allow for each section. These guidelines can be included on the exam itself or provided verbally during the exam (e.g., “you have an hour remaining, you should be working on the essay by now”).
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