Exam Success Tip: Find Old Tests


Tests are hard. Studying for tests is hard. Tests suck.

And science courses use tests to determine your grade. Instead of writing papers (with the exception of lab reports), you take tests. And tests suck.

It’s especially troublesome if you don’t take tests well.

So here’s the best test-taking tip I can give you:

Find old tests from the same course and same professor from previous years. This may take some searching, but with a little detective work it’s not that hard to find someone else who took the class. There’s a good chance they may have their old tests from the year before, and using them to help you study can help enormously.

Some professors don’t hand back tests, so obviously this won’t work for those cases.

What are the benefits?

1. An understanding of how the professor asks questions. Professor’s write questions different ways, some more tricky than others. Getting a “feel” for how a test is written is great preparation.
2. An insight into what is going to be asked. This may help you narrow down the material you study.
3. The potential for the exact same question to be asked. I once had two old tests to study from for an upcoming exam. When I took the exam I was pleased to find that about 50% of the questions were exactly the same, word for word. Needless to say, I did pretty well.

This will never replace good ol fashioned studying, but it can definitely provide an edge. Give it a shot!

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