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Reviewing For Exams

  1. Techniques for reviewing for tests form an essential part of being a student.

    1. Under most conditions, it is more efficient to study alone. There are, however, three exceptions:

      1. If two or more persons have already mastered the material very well, quizzing each other may be more effective than self-quizzing alone. Some studies have shown the students learn from each other as much as they learn from the teacher

      2. If the course material is too difficult, then collaboration with another student or setting up a study-group can be profitable; however, study groups work best when they meet on a regular basis well before the exam is scheduled.

      3. Sometimes in order to reduce anxiety and conflict, it is more profitable to study with others than to study alone. Avoid mixing socializing and study--it seldom works for difficult classes.

    2. Intensive studying the night before an exam has serious disadvantages.

      1. Anxiety impairs thinking, reasoning, and learning.

      2. Anxiety is incompatible with enjoyment. By studying intently the night before an exam, you are learning not to enjoy not only the subject being studied but also learning not to enjoy the study and leaning process.
      3. If you have already formed the habit of cramming the night before a test, then your task is made much more difficult, since just the sight of a textbook at any time, not just before an exam, may cause anxiety. Even the thought of studying can cause apprehension because past study has been associated with tension, dread, and negative feedback.

      4. The "institutional syndrome" can be seen to be established when our natural creativity, discovery, and curiosity is hindered by past negative reinforcement.

  2. Cramming is psychologically unsound for other reasons as well.  Having spent an enormous amount of effort and loss of sleep the night before an exam, a student is usually rewarded with a less than acceptable grade. The negative conditioning leads to the loss of desire to study until some sort of an emergency situation crops up--i.e., usually, the next test, and so the effect tends to perpetuate itself.

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01.24.04     ©  2001-4  GFDL

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