Studying with practice exams? Here’s 5 ways to do it better
Unlike highlighting, rereading or copying out notes, studying with practice exams is actually an effective way to study – according to science.
Regardless of the format the final exam will follow – practice testing works because you have to make the effort to pull information from your memory – which is something we don’t have to do when we look over our notes.
According to some other scientists, self-testing is also a powerful way to improve our long term ability to recall facts and is one of the most powerful way to store key information. It turns out that all those sad, lost NCEA past exams have some value after all.
So if practice exams are really the best way of studying, how come we don’t incorporate them into our usual study plans?
Well, friends, consider this your official sign from the universe. The jury’s out: practice exams are a scientifically-backed way to make sure you’ll learn your stuff for that elusive endorsement you’ve been chasing.
If you’re stuck on how to study for a NCEA subject, download some practice exams from the NCEA website NOW, and have them printed out for your next study session.
But not before reading the following tips:
1. Always thoroughly attempt a question before checking the answers.
Even if you have no idea what the answer is, it always, always pays to give the question a go. Your study formula should be:
study → test → study again → test again. Rinse and repeat until you get the results you want, every time you try your exam.
You can usually gain partial marks for attempting questions in the exam, and it is important to practice gaining these marks as soon as possible.
If you’re peeking at the answers during your exam, the only person you’re playing is yourself.
2. Reflect after reading the answers.
Instead of just correcting your mistakes, make a list of all of the concepts you struggled with. If you can, include an action point for each one with how to study it.
This will help you to understand why you struggled or failed in the areas you did, so that next time, your brain can get to the right answer more quickly.
3. Practice under real exam conditions.
You gotta practice like you play.
If you spend your study sessions cruising through a practice exam, with all the time in the world and the answers/Internet access at your fingertips, you’re going to enter the exam with a false sense of confidence that will ultimately be your downfall.
Even after you have read the answers, set a timer, find a quiet space and practice redoing the question under exam pressure. Once you’re done, take a moment to relax before diving straight into marking yourself.
You’ll not only become more familiar with exam-pressure, you’ll learn how to prioritise your time and you’ll be able to track your own progress more accurately by comparing your first results to your latest ones.
4. Use our Walkthrough Guides to study concepts you struggle with
Our walkthrough guides can be accessed here and are broken into small chunks – perfect for honing in on questions you are still struggling with.
5. Find someone to go through the answers with you.
Discussing answer and exam strategies with someone else is the best way to cement knowledge and avoid future mistakes.
Inspiration Education tutors are experienced at running through problem areas with students, and getting to the bottom of things they are struggling with. They now have special Term Four packs available here.
Otherwise – grab a friend, compare answers (without judgement or criticism), and have a yarn about the exam. Explaining things to someone aloud is one of the best study methods you’ve got. Combine it with completing practice exams and – bam, you have yourself a high-impact study method.