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iMU at Mercyhurst University: Homework & Test Taking

Effective Study Habits


Studying for quizzes, tests, mid-terms, or finals can be nerve-racking. But, if you utilize these skills below, you can train yourself to be highly effective at managing valuable time.


1. Not Cramming - Don't do it! Pulling all-nighters to study for an exam is often ineffective and will leave you exhausted. It is important to spread out your studying into shorter, more meaningful sessions.

2. Planning - Plan study time into your schedule. Studying frequently and at the same time of day is habit forming. Ample study time will ensure you are retaining information. After creating your study plan, STICK TO IT! Procrastination is also habit forming. The more you deviate from your schedule, you will find it harder to catch back up. You will more than likely rush through the material causing you to skip over or retain less useful information.

3. Studying - Study in short sessions with end goals. This way, you can focus on a handful of topics, rather than an entire textbook. Each session should have a goal. Whether it's to read 100 pages or write a rough draft, these goals should be included while planning.

4. Reviewing - When you start a study session, be sure to review the work of your previous session. If your notes don't make sense to you, go back and visit that specific section to clarify key points. Adjust your notes so you can easily understand them. Having excellent notes will also relieve you from cramming sessions. Remember, reviewing 4-5 pages of key points is less time consuming than 150 pages of text.

All About Homework


1. Schedule classes back-to-back

You may think spreading your classes apart throughout the day is the best way to manage time, but studies have found when students block classes together on fewer days of the week, more time for studying and homework becomes available.  

2. Find your study time

Studying with roommates or friends may seem like a great plan, however, people are more alert at different times of the day. It is important for you to find your best time of day to study or do homework so that you are actively engaged in the assignments.

3. Do the work!

Ok, you found your study time, and classes are over for the day. Now you have to stick to your plan! Read lecture notes or chapters before the planned lecture. This will allow you to ask questions or get clarity on items you had trouble understanding. Work on memorizing key facts and points. This will shorten the amount of studying when it comes time for the test. If you have signed up for five courses, at least 20% of your study time should go to each class. As you feel more comfortable with subjects, you can cut time with them and spend more on the others.

4. Break up big projects

If you were given fifteen days to write a five page paper, you would think it to be an easy task. However, a thirty page paper doesn't seem like it could ever be written in a three month timeframe. If you break the big project into six smaller projects, the task won't seem so daunting.

5. Get invloved

Be involved in classroom conversations. Ask your professor questions. Engage yourself with the classroom atmosphere. You will be more observant and take specific notes. Join study groups for the class. Lastly, but most importantly, attend review sessions. Often times professors will schedule review sessions before exams. Unless you are working or injurred, there is no reason not to attend these. These session review much of what is on the exam and often you will be provided direct answers to questions. Who doesn't like free answers to exam questions?

Things To Do On Test Day

1. Sleep

It is recommended that students get 8-9 hours of sleep the night before the exam.

2. Eat

Eat, but don't over eat. Eating  will help provide fuel for your brain, but a full stomach could make you tired as your brain uses energy for digestion.

3. Drink Water

A well hydrated body functions better. Don't drink too much to cause frequent bathroom breaks. Most professors will not allow use of the facilities when testing. Don't drink alcohol the night before. Hangovers make for rough days, plus alcohol affects the way the brain functions. You won't be thinking straight.

4. Avoid Anxiety

Arrive early so not to cause any unwanted stress before the exam. Allow ample time for traffic, fill your gas tank the night before, reduce as many stops as possible to ensure you arrive on time. Make sure your bag is packed with all necessary materials. Stay clear of anxious classmates. Nervousness can be contagious. It's important to stay focused on the exam, not what could go wrong.

5. Read Directions

Read through directions and questions slowly. Do not skip words. Often students will skim questions overlooking words like Not, Best, or All. Words like these are crucial parts of questions that will determine an answer to be right or wrong.

6. Utilize Time

It is important to budget your time and use it wisely. Don't get caught up on questions you are uncertain about. Finish the exam and then review the questions, answering them to the best of your ability. Often, answers to questions will be triggered by another question or idea while taking the exam. Stay for the length of the exam period. Sometimes unanswered questions will come to you once you leave the exam hall; don't let this happen. Once finished, relax for a moment and then review your answers.

Science of Memory

Professor Mark Gluck, Rutgers University, explains why cramming just doesn't work.