Test Habits That Make No Big Difference

Do you have this ritual dance you do, every time a test comes along? I definitely do. This is a checklist that will lead to success (almost) every time. Actually I’m pretty sure most of them have nothing to do with test success, they just make me feel good.

  1. I start by opening all my books on my desk, make a checklist of all the things I need to cover. Have sticky notes, a highlighter, stapler, pencil, and eraser… everything ready!
  2. I could start studying but…I type my way to blackboard to check all my grades and try and set my future mark. “Test genie, I need an 80 to balance out that 60 mark! Oh, but wouldn’t it be awesome to get a 90? I think I should get a 90 on the next test.”

Did you see what I just did there? That’s right I set an unrealistic goal, here I am getting 60s and I jump straight to 90. Never happened in course before, but for some reason I plan to get a 90 anyway.

  1. As I am flipping through notes, I realize there were some days where my notes weren’t so good. Missing information here and there, so I call my friends and plan a study group, even though no actual independent study has happened yet. Whatever.
  2. Start studying late: The day before the test, I still haven’t studied so I speed through my notes and text book. Cross my fingers and hope that that was enough.
  3. An hour before the test we all assemble a study group. (This is where most of the studying actually happens, where everyone talks over each other, asking and answering questions.)
  4. After the test there are two possible feelings and accompanying analyses:
    1. “I think I did well! The answers basically popped out at me… wait. You shouldn’t be feeling good! Now of course you didn’t do well, you probably jinxed it. Ok, ok calm down, maybe it’s not too late yet, feel bad. Start thinking of all the things that could have been wrong. Be sad, be sad!” This is ridiculous I know, but everytime I think I do well I actually don’t get the mark I expect!
    2. “I probably failed! I didn’t know the answer to anything!!!! Ignore the test, go have some ice cream.” You know that feeling after a test you don’t think you did so well on? I give myself an internal speech about how it’s all ok, I shouldn’t ruminate…Although, usually what ends up happening is that I have exaggerated my mistakes in my head so much that I don’t realize that they were really small mistakes. I end up doing really well!

So that’s my story of how most my tests go at university. Test time is actually a lot of fun, because you feel like you’re actually doing something, and you learn and remember the material better when you are actually studying (which is why studying works!).

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