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

Transitioning into college was a very brutal adjustment. What was my biggest challenge? Studying! I came into college with the wrong assumption that I wouldn't have to study much. Frankly, I never had to before. After doing poorly in my first exam for general chemistry, I was devastated and desperate to better prepare for my next exam.

My professor recommended to attend SI (supplemental instruction) sessions. I was appalled by the idea, nonetheless, I attended several sessions a week. My next exam grade improved which made me very happy, but my need to improve was still very strong. I was enrolled in a college readiness course in the fall for students that are first generation and STEM majors. In this course, we had a class on learning strategies. The three that helped me the most were retention practice, spaced learning, and studying in groups. I formed a group and met with them nearly everyday, even to do our homework together. For studying, we did practice exams together and quizzed each other.

Retention practice is checking how much you can remember about what you learn. You can do this by taking out a blank sheet of paper and writing down everything related to a topic you are learning. It is important to do this for current material as you learn it, and also past material as time goes by to make sure you still know it.

Spaced learning was my favorite. Studying the same subject for hours on end can “fry” your brain which in turn does not help you retain the information. If you have three exams coming up, study for the first exam for 45 minutes and then take a 15 minute break. Do the same for the other 2 exams. Cut down the time of the studying intervals as you see fit. By jumping from one subject to the next, you are forcing your brain to be engaged, which helps retention. The breaks help you have something to look forward to. Reward yourself with a snack during the break or do stretches. Anything that helps your body and brain be productive while studying.

Miriam from Arizona
College Freshman
University of Arizona