Many instructors grow weary of hearing the question “what’s going to be on the test?” And further, some struggle with helping students effectively study for the exams. In a 2016 Teaching Professor Blog, writer Maryellen Weimer provided teaching activities that can make exam sessions more productive for students and less of a chore for instructors. With some adaptations, a couple of these activities included:
What’s going the be on the test? Students take three to four minutes to look over their syllabus, notes, and coursework assignments, and write down five things that they are confident will be on the exam. The students then form groups of three to five students and compare their lists. Taking turns, the student groups can write the topics on the board – thus providing classroom generated ideas for what will be on the exam. The instructor can offer clarifying remarks for exam topics generated.
What makes a good answer? Instructors provide at least two examples of previous exam or essay questions. These answers can be constructed from previous semester and should be at different quality levels. Students grade the answers individually and then evaluate them as a group, focusing on what differentiates them. The goal of this activity is identifying concrete features of good answers. Students could then work on creating their own answers to the question posed and circulate their response to classmates for constructive feedback.
How should I study for the test? Students may rely on old standbys for studying including highlighting and re-reading class notes. Instructors can help students improve their performance based on cognitive psychology research. This research suggests studying for shorter periods across several days, quizzing and testing themselves, and trying different strategies such as reviewing alone and then with a friend. Instructors can encourage students to examine their calendars and develop a study plan over the course of several days (or weeks) to ensure studying occurs. In addition to these tips, we encourage you to share the many resources available to students through the Academic Success Center website. This includes individualized and group-facilitated experiences through course-specific and general academic assistance such as academic coaching, Supplemental Instruction (SI), and tutoring services as well as Psych 131, an academic skills course.
See you after spring break,
Sara Marcketti, Interim Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching