The Best Way to Study for Final Exams

What is the best way to ace your teenager’s final exams?

This is a timely question as millions of high school students are getting ready to take their final exams.

You might assume that reading textbooks and notes over and over again is the best way to study, but researchers from Purdue and Washington University insist that it’s not the best approach.

Listen Up Test Takers

Here’s a better way to improve test scores:

You should practice retrieving as much information as you can from memory just as you would have to do on test day. You can do this by writing down what you absorbed — without consulting your notes or book — or you can review what you know out loud. And you should do this several times.

Even if you think you know it, the research shows retrieving it about three or four more times can achieve big gains in learning.

What the Experts Say

In contrast, simply reviewing your notes or textbook can provide you a false sense of confidence. In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, here’s what one of the researchers, Jeffrey D. Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue, had to say about this phenomenon:

“When you’ve got your chemistry book in front of you, everything’s right there on the page, it’s all very familiar and fluent,” says Jeffrey D. Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University and lead author of a paper in the May issue of Memory about students’ faulty intuitions about effective study habits.

“So you could say to yourself, ‘Yeah, I know this. Sure, this is all very familiar,'” Mr. Karpicke continues. “But of course, when you go in to take a classroom test, or in real life when you need to reconstruct your knowledge, the book’s not there. In our experiments, when students repeatedly read something, it falsely inflates their sense of their own learning.”

Learn More Here

To learn more, here is a press release from the Purdue study about the research on performing better on tests and here is the final exam article from The Chronicle.

Who ever thought that hitting the books might not always be the best strategy to acing your finals?

I also found some great advice from a professor writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education on how to take an exam after the studying is complete:

How to Take a Final Exam (Part 1)

How to Take a Final Exam (Part 2)

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of the second edition of The College Solution, which was just released this month.

Let's Connect

Leave a Reply