Myths About Exams
Everybody knows what’s involved in studying for exams, right? Well–maybe not. In fact, there are several myths that many people believe are true, but which actually do little or nothing to enhance the studying process. Chances are good that you’ve bought into one or more of these myths. Let’s take a look at some of the more common myths, and discuss what the truth is.
MYTH #1: I should study absolutely everything that’s in the textbook or that was discussed by the instructor.
The truth: Only a small portion of the material is included on any test. The key, then, is to figure out what was important enough that it will be included on the test. So how do you do this? You learn to pick up on certain clues.
– When the instructor repeats a point several times, it’s a clue that it might be on the test.
– When the textbook bolds or italicizes a key point, it’s a clue that it might be on the test.
– When the instructor makes a point of emphasizing something that the book emphasized, it’s a clue that it might be on the test.
– When the instructor writes information on the board or on the overhead, it’s a clue that it might be on the test.
MYTH #2: Cramming usually improves your grades. The problem with this myth is that the brain can’t be stuffed like cabbage leaves. The brain doesn’t retain information that well. What it’s more likely to do is to make you too exhausted to take the exam. The result: You’ll probably forget a good amount of what you’re studying. But then, life happens right? So if you absolutely have to cram, here are some tips on cramming.
MYTH #3: By studying for several hours at a time, I’ll outperform the other students. The truth: It’s more efficient to study for 45 or 50 minutes at a time and then take a short break. The whole reason that most classes are broken into 50 minute units is that professional educators have determined that this is the maximum amount of time that the brain will receive information without needing a break.
MYTH #4: Math questions are always either right or wrong. In fact, there are a few instances in which it’s not that clear. For instance, things get a bit milky when you’re studying probabilities. Probability says that if you roll a six-sided die six times, that the number 5 will show up once and no more. However, reality says that sometimes, the 5 will not show up at all, and in other cases, it might show up two or three times. More on Math Questions.
MYTH #5: You must have total silence in order to study well. Not true. It’s true that many people are very sensitive to any sound or visual distractions. Others, though, find it easier to study if they have soft music playing. In fact, some studies have shown that listening to classical music can actually improve the student’s learning.
MYTH #6: Everyone learns the same way. Educators have known the truth about this for decades: Everyone learns in a slightly different way, and requires different study techniques to take advantage of these differences. Do yourself a favor and use Google or Bing to research “learning style.” See if you can find your own unique learning style, and begin studying in ways that capitalize on it.
MYTH #7: Multiple choice strategies will dramatically increase your exam score. The truth is somewhere in the middle on this one. No, there is no evidence that merely by mastering certain question-answering techniques that you’ll receive a significantly higher score. However, there is evidence that if you’ve studied the material, then learning a few techniques will give you extra confidence and could boost your score by an important few points. More on Multiple Choice Strategies.
Now that you’re armed with the truth about studying for a test, go and put the information to use. The smart studier uses what works–and throws out the myths.