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

Horrified, I stared at the C+ scrawled on the top of my Developmental Biology exam. I was an aspiring writer, not a science major, slogging my way through the most difficult core biology class at my school. As motor neurons, collagen deposition, and DNA transcription overwhelmed my poor poet’s brain, the looming prospect of failing the final drew ever closer.

Once I finally conquered my pride and asked a successful classmate for help, she pulled down a whiteboard from her dorm room wall and sketched a green car driving down a red road, then labeled the green car “motor neuron” and the red road “neural pathway.”

“The green car is a motor neuron,” she explained. “You know, because cars have motors.”

Then, much to my surprise, she erased the picture.

“When you write color-coded information down knowing you’re going to erase it, your brain stores it long term,” she told me. “You’ll remember it during the test.”

I was fascinated. I borrowed my classmate’s colored markers and spent several hours alone in an empty classroom, filling the huge whiteboards with spiraling diagrams of green, purple, and red—making sure to erase them every few minutes.

When I sat down to take the final the next day, the first question jumped off the page: “What kind of neuron forms the pathways along which impulses travel from the brain to a muscle?” Immediately, a colorful image sprang to my mind: a sketch of a green car driving along a red road. I broke into a grin and scribbled the words “motor neuron.”

After passing the biology final with high marks, I went out and bought my own whiteboard and a pack of colored markers. Ever since then, I have been preparing for tests by drawing and erasing color-coded diagrams. The practice of creating a picture, and then destroying it, trains my brain to remember the information on exam day. Even though science will never be my favorite subject, I have learned to love studying biology, chemistry, and even physics. All it took was the right method.

Sophia from Washington
College Junior
Hillsdale College