Explore Strategies - Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation - Carnegie Mellon University

Step 3: Explore Strategies

Explore potential strategies.

Students performed poorly on an exam.

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.

Strategies:

Provide students with test-taking strategies.

Have students simulate the exam experience.

Give students opportunity to reflect on their exam performance.

Provide time guidelines for different sections of your exam.

Provide students with test-taking strategies.

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.

Have students simulate the exam experience.

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.

Give students opportunity to reflect on their exam performance.

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.

Provide time guidelines for different sections of your exam.

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”).

This site supplements our 1-on-1 teaching consultations.
CONTACT US to talk with an Eberly colleague in person!

 

learning principles

  1. Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning. MORE>
  2. How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know. MORE>
  3. Students’ motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn. MORE>
  4. To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned. MORE>
  5. Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students’ learning. MORE>
  6. Students’ current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning. MORE>
  7. To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning. MORE>