After more than 20 years of teaching intro level statistics courses, I’ve seen the study techniques that separate the students who consistently score well from those who do poorly. My current students face their first exam next week; thousands of other college students are probably doing the same. Try these tips for success:
- Most important: Start preparing days, even weeks, before the exam. Spread out your study time over several days (experts call this “distributed practice”). Cramming can be confusing and the knowledge doesn’t last. In statistics, you need the learning to last. The exam is “Game Day” and you can’t be ready for the game with one night of preparation.
- Use several types of learning. Memorize definitions, but go further. Make sure you comprehend each part of the definition – why is it important? Can you apply the term by giving an example or identifying it in a real-world situation? Can you use the term or concept to analyze a situation? Memorization is the foundation, but it’s just the beginning. Exams are not a “special teams” event – you need to be competent the material in a variety of different ways.
- Work as many problems as you can from your textbook, study guide, homework – even search the internet. Statistics problems always make sense when you see them worked out from beginning to end – it’s different when you have to figure out the next step. You can’t just memorize the playbook: you need to practice running the plays.
- Get a study group and test each other – challenge each other to time trials, grill each other on the concepts, get help solving a knotty problem. Be sure to take an active role even if you’re unsure – you can’t sit on the bench at practice and expect to score in the game.
- Gather information about the test. What kinds of questions will be on it? Can you bring notes? Textbook? Learn the rules of the game – and figure out how to play your best within them.
- Learn from mistakes you already made – go over the questions you got wrong on quizzes and homework. Don’t practice plays you’ve perfected – work on the things you fumbled!
- What about math anxiety? Most people in the general population get at least a little anxious doing math. Learn some relaxation techniques ahead of time (meditation, breathing exercises, a mantra, a favorite song). If this is a serious problem for you, seek help from the Counseling, Advisement, or Study Skills Center at your college – they may have a program for people with math anxiety.
- Use your professor or T.A. Ask questions in class. Drop in during Office Hours with your toughest question. If there’s a review session, go to it. Remember – the prof is the coach, not the enemy.
- Don’t give in to the temptation to cheat on the exam. Cheating reduces your character and ethical standards. Cheating schemes take precious study time and rarely gain much – and getting caught can get you tossed out of the game. Don’t be that person!
- Keep it all in perspective – one exam is not your entire grade. One course is not your entire college career. Get ready for Game Day – but remember it’s not your whole life.
- Math anxiety causes trouble for students as early as first grade (sciencedaily.com)
- Tips for Overcoming Math Test Anxiety (mathedconcepts.wordpress.com)
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- How to Study Hard and Play Hard in College (hbculifestyle.com)
- Statistics Help Tips for Students (tutoringtoexcellence.blogspot.com)
- How To Boost Your Study Skills (howtolearn.com)
- Finding Success in Social Science Statistics Classes (nortonbooks.typepad.com)
- Why Do Students Party in College? (uloop.com)