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Studying for finals: MAC students and alumni

William Tyree

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The word: finals. Most freshman who hear these words may not have had to take any before, and don’t know what to expect. Some under-and-upperclassmen alike may look at them dauntingly, as they walk into the room on the day of the test without having reviewed the material.

Studying is always a good plan. If you review a little bit every day to repeat the information, and re-read your notes, you will most likely do better on finals and other tests. Sleeping well before a big test is also recommended, and eating something fulfilling beforehand helps too.

Sophomore Katlyn Smith agrees with these findings.

“Usually I prepare a week before the finals so I have time to figure out which classes I need to study more for, or just prepare myself for,” Smith said. “I benefit myself by asking teachers about certain things [as well].”

Going over test answers with your teachers can help to re-teach you on parts of the course material you may not have been clear on when they were taught.

Junior Brisa Arriaga also studies for her tests and finals. Arriaga said, “Look over your tests, and test scores, and notes.”

Making a study group with friends in a class or in the same subject can really help to retain knowledge as well.

Senior Micah McDaniel says making flashcards helps them to study.

“I like Quizlet, and making flashcards for vocab and stuff,” McDaniel said. “Find a method [of studying] that really suits you, try everything until you find something [that works for you].”

Flashcards can be easily accessed and used, and are a fantastic way to drill information into you.

There are many different ways to study, so ultimately you may find the way, or ways, in which you do best on tests. In a 2009 study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, Nate Kornell used flashcards in a set of 20, to determine how it was better to study. His study of the subjects found that when using flashcards, subjects who used a bigger stack remembered more of the words as opposed to subjects who used smaller stacks over a period of time. The overall conclusion, is that using flashcards helped the subjects to remember the concepts.

Katherine Rawson, with a PhD in Psychology from Kent State University also thinks that cramming can lead to less retention of the concepts taught.

“They [students] cram right before an exam, and to be honest that’s probably OK for doing fine on your exam,” she said in an article by Lea Winerman in a publication by the American Psychological Association. “But the problem is that it’s horrible for long-term retention. Students don’t realize that they’re really undercutting their own learning.”

The reason we go to school is to learn, and knowing the concepts not only can be applied to the world as a whole, but if learned properly before the test, knowing the information can improve your score.

McCallum Graduate Audrey Holden had some tips for how she studies. Holden is a sophomore at Texas Christian University, and is majoring in Music Education. Holden uses a method for studying that seems to work for her.

“For my psychology class I just rewrote my notes nicely and color coded them, and that’s all I did. Like, I just took my notes, because I had really bad handwriting, and I took different colored pens and then just rewrote my notes nicely.” Holden said, “I still can remember some of the information that I wrote down because it’s like writing.”

Holden’s studying method has changed since high school, probably due to the shift in course work.

“Flashcards are great for like a short term recall, like cramming for the next day kind of stuff you’ll forget as soon as you’ve taken [the test] which sometimes you need to do.” Holden says, “When it comes to studying, I think that people should just do what they need to do. If you need to flashcard it up, if you need to put a song to it or write in colored markers, whatever you need to do. Find out what works best for you.”

Trying things out until you find what works best for you is really worthwhile, and it can help to bring up your grade. Once you have a method of studying you know works, it may help you out countless times afterwards.

In terms of the tests in high school versus the tests in college, Holden said the tests have changed, as well as the state of the reviews given by professors

“If I’m talking about academic classes, I feel like they got easier, kind of, because I knew what I had to do to get it done.” Holden said. “Teachers give better final reviews in college. I don’t know what it is, but they actually just tell you exactly what needs to be done. Like, I’m in a U.S. History class right now, and [my professor] just tells you, like, ‘I’m gonna ask for this on all of these subjects’ and he’ll pick five of them to be on the final. So I don’t know, it’s more forward.”

Here’s hope for all of you who may be dreading the finals: it gets better. These finals may define a quarter of the semester grade, but studying and trying can help to bring you through to better times.

Adrienn, who goes to the Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy, or LASA, is a sophomore who studies for finals in a methodical way.

“Usually if I can find practice problems and do them. Those are generally the best because they’re actually entertaining and not mind numbing, it’s not just like trying to cram in all the information again. I’ll say out loud like all the slides and all the notes, while trying to explain them to myself. Or I’ll have a friend there to just listen to me,” Adrienn said. “Don’t put it [studying] off, but also if you do put it off don’t spend all night studying because that will just screw you over even more.”

Sleeping before a big test is recommended by many psychologists. Pulling an all-nighter cramming can be quite devastating, making you less alert to correctly answer the questions given.

There’s not one specific way to study. You’ve really got to find the one that works the best for you, which may seem daunting, but the work makes for better grades for your tests. Some examples of methods to study would be flashcards, reviewing notes, reviewing test questions and asking teachers about ones you don’t know if you don’t have a full understanding of the concept, making a study group, and lastly doing a lot of practice problems. Getting good sleep, and eating a healthy and filling breakfast are also good things to do before finals. Good luck, MAC; may the odds be ever in your favor.

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Studying for finals: MAC students and alumni