Test Prep 101

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Right about this time (or soon after), students are preparing to take their first exam in a course. If you ask students about studying for an exam, you will be surprised at the responses. Thus, it is essential to tell the students how to prepare for an exam - what works and doesn't work.

As a PAL Facilitator, you have a unique role that allows you to do this - you have taken the course and know the expectations. Also, you were selected for the position as you demonstrated exemplary knowledge of the content which came through studying.

Describe the study skills you would suggest the students employ to effectively prepare for the exam in your area. Also, what content would be on this exam? Of the topics, what do you believe will be the most difficult for students and why?

10 Comments

I would advise the students to start from the beginning. When I studied for MATH 1090 I outlined the main concepts for each module and did practice problems for each one. I would advise them to focus on the conceptual problems from the work sheet and be able to apply them to numerical problems. Starting from the beginning allows them to take more time refreshing their mind on things they haven't thought about in a while. Plus the later modules are more recent in their mind because they have probably just learned them. The content of this exam from what I remember was a mixture of numerical and conceptual problems. It didn't vary too much from the worksheets and mymathlab. I believe that each student will have something different that is difficult to them. For example, one student might have trouble with radicals and another might have issues with solving inequalities. I would encourage them to identify their problems areas, get clarification and help at Just Ask, and then come to the help/PAL sessions for practice problems to really solidify that tricky material.

To study for Statistics I would start with the begging because everything builds on previous things that are taught. I believe that some of the hardest things we have gone over in class so far are the bin and frequency plots and the voucher problems. I think these are hard because there is a lot you have to do for them. The hardest part of the bin and frequency plots is remembering to press control, alt, enter. I think the easiest way to remember to do this step is to just practice it over and over again. The voucher problems I think are had because they is just a lot that you need to remember. The most effective way to study for me was to go back and redo the class activities and the homework problems. It’s nice because most of the time you don’t remember it exactly, but you still have the answers so you can go back and check your answers. I would suggest to first do the problems and try everything on their own, and after find a group and work through the ones you didn't know how to do. I would also suggest reading over all of the definitions again, and quizzing yourself or a friend on them. I would also suggest to go to all the PAL and help sessions possible to get extra practice.

It is quite interesting that this is the blog question. I say this because a couple of students asked my how they should study for their Calculus exam earlier this week. I told them to review the quizzes, and get comfortable with the types of questions that are asked. I should have also told them that it is really beneficial to practice old test questions. I know at my Pal session, I will have some of these questions, dealing particularly with SIR modeling, forming rate equations, linear approximations, and finding the optimal population in a logistic model (both algebraically and by a graph). Since there is an Excel Portion on the exam, the Calculus students should practice using that to make approximations for a large amount of time. They should also be able to recognize how to make better approximations by changing the delta x (delta t if it is time).
As long as the students cover all of these topics, the test should be fairly straight forward. I think that students choose how difficult a test is and how hard the questions are. Some of the topics people have had a hard time with before have been how to modeling rate equations, algebraic calculations, and inverse functions. Another difficult process in Math, not just Calculus, is that you must show all of the steps to an answer, including all the symbols being clearly marked and defined. Some students like to get straight to the point, and try to spend less time on a problem. However, certain problems require more effort and time than others. They also need more of an explanation beyond the numbers. If students accomplish these things, the test should be easy.

When advising students on how to study for exams, I always try to encourage them to reference the slides presented in class. This is particularly true for Organic Chemistry. One thing I found very helpful when test-prepping for O. Chem was to first go through all the slides a week prior to the exam and make sure I could answer each of the questions presented in the lecture notes. I would also take notes on any major concepts discussed in class or in the assigned reading, such as periodic trends, hybridization and the like. If there were any red flags or areas of confusion I would bookmark that page with a sticky note and take it to the O. Chem faculty either at their office hours or JustAsk hours. Then, once I was confident in the course material I did practice exams. When taking practice exams, I advise students to go through the first practice test at their own leisure and take note of any areas where they had trouble. They should then go back and study those concepts where they struggled. After that students should start timing themselves when taking their practice exams and treat it as though they were actually taking the exam. This method of practice is extremely helpful come test day! Too often students complain that they did not have enough time to complete their exam and that their scores suffered as a result. This issue can be minimized if not resolved completely by prepping and practicing in a way that resembles the actual exam experience. My final tip on exam prep, which applies to all subjects, is to set aside time to meet with the professor and get their advice. I would highly recommend that students ask their instructors what they expect their students to really focus on, what tips they have for test-prepping and how they advise their students study for their exam. The UMR faculty is incredibly helpful and they want the students to succeed. As a PAL I think it is a good practice to always remind students to seek help and advice from the faculty as well as TAs, PALs and their peers.

Approximately a week and a half ago, Dr. Huq announced that there would be a test on October 4. This announcement was followed by a myriad of groans and sighs by students. I made it a point to try my hardest to prepare the Calculus students for this first exam. One way I facilitated their preparation was by creating several practice questions for them to practice on throughout the week. In my PAL session, we also went over some difficult concepts that many people were finding frustrating. I strongly urged them to review quizzes and worksheets to get an idea of what types of questions may be on the test. In addition, I also told them to review the module notes. Many people don't read the notes, but they can be very helpful and even contain possible test questions. If students had questions, I told them they can ask me at any time if I was available. I also told them to visit the math faculty's JustAsk hours for additional help. As far as time management goes, it is important to read the question carefully so important information is not missed. For example, a multiple choice question might ask which answer is FALSE. As a result, I told them to underline/circle important numbers, words, and phrases.

The content covered in this exam included review material such as inverses and inequalities. Module 1 contained rate equations, average rate of change, Euler's method, and SIR models. I don't know how much I stressed to students that they should know SIR inside-and-outside. The Calculus tests are 3 parts: one part that is individual; the second is open resource; and the third is a group test. Again, I tried to remind students constantly that they should know how work a problem in Excel and to possibly have a template made going into the test as to save as much time as possible. The one concept that I felt that students had the hardest time on was creating rate equations. They were getting prime notation and delta notation mixed up, and these are different things.

And so, this week came and went. It was finally Friday and students were getting ready to take their first Calculus exam. I helped Dr. Huq pass out the tests, and it was underway. Two hours later, most of the groups were finishing up the third part of the test. A lot of people came up to me and said that the test wasn't necessarily that hard, but it was difficult to finish in the time frame given, which was 50-60 minutes or so. They also said that they found the Excel portion to be hard because they didn't read the question right on the first read-through, and so they wasted valuable time trying to fix their mistakes.

I feel like I tried very hard to prepare students for this exam, and I believe that a majority were very disappointed or upset at their performance on the test. I tried to reassure them that if they keep working hard, it'll be alright. The first test is almost always a learning experience, and now they have some sort of idea of what to expect for the next test.

As a student who had never taken a statistics class prior to statistics during my freshman year, I always wondered how I should study for a statistics exam. Although statistics was different from any math class I had ever taken, I developed some very helpful strategies by the end of the semester. When this question was posed to me by students this year, the first thing I told them was to review their quizzes and activities. Although this may sound repetitive and not helpful to the students, it is by far the most important thing to do when preparing for a statistics exam. The quizzes give the students an idea of what types of question they will see on an exam and they also display to the students what types of questions or concepts they do not understand. I also advised the students to go over their quizzes and make sure they know how to do the things they did wrong.
As for the excel portion, which always seems to be a mystery to most of the students, I advised them to do all the activities again. I also told some students to make sure that they have all of the excel functions written down somewhere where it is easy to access it during the exam. The biggest problem most students have during excel quizzes is time management. I advised the students who came to my pal sessions to just keep moving in excel. If they can’t remember something to just skip it and go to another problem.
I also advised students during the written portion to skip the multiple choice questions first and come back to them once they have finished the other questions. This is very useful for time management because even if they run out of time, they would have attempted the problems with the most points.
I believe that the most difficult concepts for students during this test will be the density functions, frequency bars, and the voucher problems. Out of these three, I think the most problematic will be the density function because it is the newest concept to students.

When I was taking organic chemistry, there were many different study habits that I developed along the way. For one, I found the easiest way to study was in large groups. By studying with my friends, it was easy for me to ask a question, and most of the time, one of my friends had the answer I needed. This way we could share the little tricks we use to remember vocab or concepts. One of the harder concepts on this exam was determining the Lewis structures of molecular equations. The best way to prepare for these types of problems is to work on as many practices problem as possible. By doing this, I realized that these problems are all a matter of piecing together a puzzle. Once you get comfortable doing them, organic chemistry becomes ten times easier since it's a concept used throughout the entire semester. Otherwise this exam was comprised mostly of formal charges, bond angles, skeletal structures, and electron configurations. The only other tip I would give for studying for organic chemistry is to go to review sessions.
Just ask/hours, Pal sessions, and review sessions are great resources for additional help and unique practice problems.

Studying effectively for exams is always difficult. I believe it is important for the student to study the material alone from beginning to end before working in a group. I would suggest that they go through the previous exams, homework, and mock exam questions alone first to get a feel for the material and iron out what they know and still need to work on. I would then suggest that they look up any questions they have in the notes and attempt to resolve them themselves and if they cannot then they should seek help from a professor or PAL. Working in groups to iron out the concepts they have problems with may also be very helpful for the students.

For this exam everything they have learned thus far is covered through M3B. This includes everything from learning how to formulate null and alternative hypothesis, to testing them, to excel work and basic probabilities, and finally to density functions and normal distributions. I believe students will have the most difficulties with finding the p-value, alpha, and beta along with density functions. We will focus most heavily on those during my PAL review session.

Studying effectively for exams is always difficult. I believe it is important for the student to study the material alone from beginning to end before working in a group. I would suggest that they go through the previous exams, homework, and mock exam questions alone first to get a feel for the material and iron out what they know and still need to work on. I would then suggest that they look up any questions they have in the notes and attempt to resolve them themselves and if they cannot then they should seek help from a professor or PAL. Working in groups to iron out the concepts they have problems with may also be very helpful for the students.

For this exam everything is covered through M3B. This includes everything from learning how to formulate null and alternative hypothesis, to testing them, to excel work, to basic probabilities, to density functions and normal distributions. I believe students will have the most difficulties with finding the p-value, alpha, and beta along with density functions. We will focus most heavily on those during my PAL review session.

I would advise students to collect all the worksheet they had so far because, the graded worksheet help a lot. Personally, while preparing for a Math exam, I have stacked up my worksheets first and have looked through them. Then I have taken important notes while going through the slides of the course. Taking down the important formulae and notes would be a great help while practicing problems. I would advise the students to do the same and would also ask them to practice as many problems as possible which would be an intense practice. I would recommend them to work on few problems while looking at the formula and few without looking at the formula because, in the exam, knowing the formula already would help a lot. I would also ask them to go over the worksheets and solve them without looking at the graded ones while keeping the mistakes they did in worksheets in mind. I would encourage them to keep track of identifying their mistakes and problem areas which could be helpful for them to ask a professor or a PAL for more help. I have also attended the review sessions before exams to get a sense about what kind of material would I get tested on. Attending help sessions, PAL sessions and review session is what I would suggest students to do while preparing for their exams.

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This page contains a single entry by brigh042 published on September 30, 2013 6:25 AM.

Follow Up from Meeting & Effective Technology in PAL Sessions was the previous entry in this blog.

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