Preparing for the Exam

For all the strategizing that goes into responsible studying, there is no substitute for prayerful dependence upon the Holy Spirit. He is the true professor and teacher of truth (1Cor 2:10; John 16:13), and it is His instruction that we must seek if our academic endeavors are to be saved from the twin demons of despair and self-exaltation. All knowledge belongs first to God. Set your mind first to know and love God, and true knowledge will be the inevitable result (John 14:21).

Prayerfully seek patience, diligence, and faithfulness.

 Studying is a longterm endeavor. But few of us are good with longterm diligence (Prov 20:6). Pray, then, that God will help you to stay the course and learn the subject steadily and faithfully.

Study with a plan.

Develop an outline for your notes and then attack them systematically, making sure to give appropriate time to important sections.

Study early.

Cramming the night before the test is neither fun nor effective, so plan to start early. The more time you give yourself to prepare, the more confident you will be on test day.

Review soon and often.

Educational studies show that reviewing notes within 24 hours and then periodically after that helps you remember the content better. Review by outlining your notes, by making flashcards or graphic organizers, or by explaining it out loud to yourself or your friends.

Focus on major concepts for better retention.

Start with the big picture and then work down to the details. While the memorization of facts has its place, the goal of your study is the understanding of truth. Information learned simply for test-day display is of no lasting value.

Focusing on the goal of longterm knowledge naturally leads to putting the main points of a topic before the details. This “big picture” knowledge is more likely to be retained (and therefore to be useful) after the semester is over, and it also helps to solidify the framework in which the smaller details can make sense.

Use group study effectively.

Group study allows you to compare notes and correct your own errors. However, group work can often be as distracting as it is helpful. Know yourself. If you learn well in a group setting, plan time to work through your notes with classmates. Or perhaps you do better studying alone and joining friends for a quick review the day before the test. When meeting with classmates, monitor your time to make sure the group works efficiently.

Avoid Honor Code violations.

Many professors prohibit the use of former tests when studying, and any such use of a test that is not specifically approved by the professor is a violation of the Honor Code.

Know the test format.

Test formats are never a secret. Know what type of questions to expect and how many essay questions will be required. Don’t be afraid to ask your professor what to expect.

Anticipate essay questions.

 Professors do not tend to surprise students with essay question topics. Essay questions normally cover major concepts to which the professor has devoted substantial attention in class lectures or through reading assignments. Search your notes and reading assignments for major topics that could find their way into possible essay questions. Create a list of likely questions, and then, using your notes, lay out a thorough and organized response to each one. If you can’t think of any potential questions, ask other students and your professor. 

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