Write an essay where you tell us what test preparation practices work best for you and why.

Cramming concepts can only get you so far, especially in college, where professors want to know if you can think critically and connect concepts, in addition to retaining basic information. This is why test preparation for me lasts the entire semester; it begins with the first readings and the notes I take. Personally, I've always found taking notes a physical notebook to work the best. I'm not the only one either, studies have shown that longhand note-taking is much more effective for learning than working on the computer (May, 2014). As the course progresses, I take it upon myself to recall and connect ideas from previous units in the homework that I do and in class discussions. This ensures that I am integrating all new information into a larger matrix, where knowledge has multiple associations, making it more readily accessible when I need it. Making the knowledge relevant and connecting it to other parts of the class makes it easier to remember long-term as well.
It is true that some review is necessary prior to the test itself. In the week before the test, I will review my notes and the textbook. If I find some concepts challenging, I will write them by hand several times on a separate sheet of paper. The physical act somehow ingrains the knowledge better than if I just read it (again, longhand notes for the win!). If I'm feeling anxious or still struggling, I might enlist a friend or family member to recite some of the information to, or if no one is around, I might even talk aloud, explain it to myself! This is another way to process the information and make it stick, using my own words. I tend to process information better when I rehearse it aloud, sometimes identifying gaps in knowledge that skipped me when I was staring at a bunch of words.

Reference:
May, Cindi. “A Learning Secret: Don't Take Notes with a Laptop.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 3 June 2014, www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-learning-secret-don-t-take-notes-with-a-laptop

Clara from Maryland
College Freshman
George Washington University