Skip to main content

Section 6.3 How to Prepare for Exams

  • Start preparing for an exam on the FIRST DAY OF LECTURES!

  • Come to all lectures and listen for where the instructor stresses material or points to classical mistakes. Make a note about these pointers.

  • Treat each chapter with equal importance, but distinguish among items within a chapter.

  • Study your lecture notes in conjunction with the textbook because it was chosen for a reason.

  • Pay particular attention to technical terms from each lecture. Understand them and use them appropriately yourself. The more you use them, the more fluent you will become.

  • Pay particular attention to definitions from each lecture. Know the major ones by heart.

  • Pay particular attention to theorems from each lecture. Know the major ones by heart.

  • Pay particular attention to formulas from each lecture. Know the major ones by heart.

  • Create a “cheat sheet” that summarizes terminology, definitions, theorems, and formulas. You should think of a cheat sheet as a very condensed form of lecture notes that organizes the material to aid your understanding. (However, you may not take this sheet into an exam unless the instructor specifically says so.)

  • Check your assignments against the posted solutions. Be critical and compare how you wrote up a solution versus the instructor/textbook.

  • Read through or even work through the paper assignments, online assignments, and quizzes (if any) a second time.

  • Study the examples in your lecture notes in detail. Ask yourself, why they were offered by the instructor.

  • Work through some of the examples in your textbook, and compare your solution to the detailed solution offered by the textbook.

  • Does your textbook come with a review section for each chapter or grouping of chapters? Make use of it. This may be a good starting point for a cheat sheet. There may also be additional practice questions.

  • Practice writing exams by doing old midterm and final exams under the same constraints as a real midterm or final exam: strict time limit, no interruptions, no notes and other aides unless specifically allowed.

  • Study how old exams are set up! How many questions are there on average? What would be a topic header for each question? Rate the level of difficulty of each question. Now come up with an exam of your own making and have a study partner do the same. Exchange your created exams, write them, and then discuss the solutions.