Study tips from an expert in test-taking

Last-minute cramming isn’t the answer. Summarize your notes after each class, and
then invite some friends for a group study session closer to exam time.

For most college students in the U.S., the dreaded finals week is just around the corner. For 2011 freshmen, the first time through college level exams can produce anxiety and frustration. Here to help is test-taking expert Ann Dolin. She is the founder of Educational Connections Inc., a tutoring and test-prep provider in Fairfax County, Va.

What’s the most common misconception about studying for finals?

Students often think that just reading equals studying. But studying must be interactive. There must be some form of writing involved to truly cement the information to memory.

Are there different concerns for students with ADHD?

One of the problems is that students will often block off two or three hours to study. That’s often not productive. No one can sustain attention for three hours, especially a student with ADHD. When studying is broken down into 30-minute chunks, students are far more productive.

What is the easiest thing students can do to improve their scores on finals?

Study after study has shown that when students summarize their notes after class, they’re far more likely to remember the material.

What is the benefit of forming study groups?

Among many positives, it gives students a sense of accountability. You tell yourself, “OK, I’m going to put aside this time to study.” And if you don’t do it, you get mad at yourself. It rides on your shoulders. But if you have a group, you’re more accountable. And you’re forced to process the information in another way. If you discuss the material with a group, you’re far more likely to remember it.

Is there a good strategy for dealing with anxiety during a test?

Yes. Have a notepad handy during the test to write down all of your anxieties. Studies show that this is the most effective way to alleviate anxiety at test time. You simply have to purge the thoughts and emotions.


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