Remembering at exam time

by Fithri

When it's time for the exam, I studied, but when I'm answering, it's hard for me to recall the information I've learned. Can you give me some study tips that will help me?

Learning is forever! Thank you. Fithri

Doug's Reply: If you have trouble recalling at exam time, you might be feeling too much pressure.

Here are some suggestions:

- Avoid heavy meals before exams. Drink water earlier in the day to avoid dehydration.

- Before the exam, find a quiet place. With eyes open and head still, shift your eyes from left to right for 30 seconds. This speeds communication between the left and right side of your brain.

- As soon as you sit down for the exam, take slow deep breaths. This calms your mind and helps you think clearly.

- When studing, reproduce the exam environment. Make sure your study desk at home is in a quiet, bright spot. Clear everything off your desk except study materials. Don't eat, play on the computer, or do anything else at your study desk.

- Teach the material. Become a tutor. Teaching is the best way to learn, because you have to know it well enough to explain it to someone else.

- Make flash cards. These help you review a lot of information quickly. On the front, write the name of the concept, then on the back, write the details. During each study session, flip through your stacks of cards and test your knowledge.

- Learn the memory systems. Memory systems give you mental hooks to remember things by. If you forget something during the exam, think of the mental hook. I recommend the book Super Memory, Super Student by Harry Lorayne, which explains tricks for memorizing school material (all subjects).

- Quiz yourself. As you study, ask yourself Who, What, When, Why, Where, How. If you can't answer quickly, study that section some more.

- Use test-taking strategies. For example, if you can't remember an answer, come back to that question later.

Answer easy questions first then go back to the harder questions. Sometimes a later question gives you a clue to the answer for an earlier question.

- For multiple-choice questions, eliminate obviously wrong answers. Also, look for answers that are opposites. Often one is the right answer to the question.

- Look for "red flag" words. Words like "always, never, must" that describe absolutes are often a giveaway that the answer is false.

- For fill-in-the-blank and essay, think around the answer. Make mental connections based on the question that lead to the answer in your memory.

- If you can have scratch paper during the test, draw or outline the problem. This can remind you of information you temporarily forgot.

- You can often derive math formulas on the spot. Use dimensional analysis of the labels on quantities to figure out the formula.

For example, if you have distance and time and are asked for velocity, remember that velocity is usually described as kilometers per hour. In dimensional analysis, that is kilometers / hour (kilometers divided by hours). So velocity = kilometers / hours. This technique even works on complicated word problems.

- Think positive. If you catch yourself thinking negatively, just stop. Tell yourself, "I can remember this material!"


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