The Key to Knowledge

9 Nov

Hey patient readers–here’s a post that’s not all homework-ee.  Though it’s still heavily based on school–becuase that’s pretty much what I’m doing right now.  Bear with me, as it’s almost Thanksgiving and I am sure to have family, Seattle, and concert stories.  But for now:  Testing.

I totally believe that 90% of school is not WHAT you know/understand, but HOW you test.  [Side-note:  The other 10%?  Preparation.  With enough work and prep, any idiot can convey the info onto a test.]  And my entire life I had test-anxiety, and therefore did not test well.

I would get nervous.  I would feel rushed.  Making stupid mistakes from not reading, over-thinking the question, second-guessing myself, not answering the entire question, or accidently skipping over the question entirely were my specialties. I never felt good before, during, or after a test.  I never felt like my performance on the test reflected what I had learned in the class.

I have been working very hard to change all this.  To get IN to school, you must test well.  You have to score well on the standardized test.  You need that GPA–which means you need the grades–and that comes down to performing well on exams.  So I guess the key to happiness in life–is taking an exam like a champ.  Simple.

OK, here is what has been helping me do better this time around in my education:

-Firstly, I prepare for the exam every single day.  Squeezing small study tasks into my routine makes me more confident.  I study flashcards when I walk to and from class.  I go over the notes during my lunch break.  Just insert a little piece of studying where you can–similar to exercise.  A little bit at a time doesn’t hurt nearly as much as a huge study session.

-But back to the actual testing procedure.  The night before, I go to bed a half hour earlier then normal.  That way, I wake up EXTRA perky and ready to go.

-In the morning prior to the test, it is too late to learn anything new.  I simply re-read the high-points.  Also, I look over any spots that gave me trouble while I was studying–just to have them at the forefront of my mind.

-This may be THE most important thing.  When I walk into the exam room–I make sure I’m listening to my i-pod.  Nothing crazy and lyrical, and not really Chinese massage/zen music.  Just instrumental music.  This serves two purposes:  It calms me.  It tunes out my classmates.  I used to get really anxious listening to my classmates chatter before a test.  I would hear answers different from what I studied.  I would begin to question myself.  Their conversations would make me want to double check things in my notes.  My classmates would erase MY most important points that were at the forefront of my mind and insert their garbage.  Maybe they would even steer me to the wrong answers.  Now, I play music to stay in my own head.

-This might seem silly to you, and you can skip it if you want–but it helps me to feel calm, peaceful, and confident if I say a quick prayer prior to the exam.  I just pray for the ability to recall everything I did study.  Also for an ability to remain calm and read carefully.

-Lastly, before I’m handed my test, I take some deep breaths.  To stay in my calm internal, and remind myself to take my time and go slow.  If you can’t tell I have to constantly fight my natural tendency to rush, rush, rush and get all frantic and crazy–which is no way to ace a test.

-While I take the test.  I read–but not the answer choices.  Once I’ve read the choices, it clouds my mind and makes me forget MY answer.  So I read the question, underlining key words, then write MY answer on the side.  Or draw a pic of what I know already.  This way, I can just match the answer to what I already knew.

-If there’s a multiple part question–I circle each thing that’s being asked.  Then in my answer, I number–to ensure I remember to do every piece.

-When (not if, because this always happens) I start to feel nervous, I just skip the question.  This usually happens if the questions are getting harder, or if I get confused, or if the questions start seemingly long and tedious.  But I draw a big arrow reminding myself I did.  Sometimes I’ll skip a whole section and go to something that feels shorter or easier.

-After I go through the test once, I go back through and attend to all skipped questions.

-Then, I feel like I’m finished, and in the old days I would hand the thing in.  Nope.  Now’s the time to look at every question.  I make certain I have an answer for every number AND every multiple part of each question.

-Not finished yet.  I’ll go back through one more time, quickly scanning the questions and my answers to make sure I didn’t do something horribly stupid or mis-read.  Sometimes I’ll even find a question I overlooked at this point.  And hopefully, my eyes don’t keep skimming over something really stupid.  For instance, on this last anatomy exam, on question #1, I hand-wrote the correct answers in the blanks–then circled the wrong answer choice that didn’t match that *hand slaps head*

-Finally, finally when everything is penciled in, answered carefully, and triple check.  I will ask the instructor any questions, double check a landmark, or clarify meanings.  I NEVER used to do this!  Not ever.  But now, if I even sort of wonder, am a teeny bit unclear, or am not 100% confident in a landmark in a picture or a word–I ask.  Usually, (mostly) instructors are not out to trip you up.  They (non-douchi ones) try to convey questions in a straightforward manner.  So when I do read-into a question too much now–I just ask.

So that’s where my procedure is these days.  And so far, I feel like it’s working for me.  Feel free to chime in about your favorite test-taking tips!

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