ACING FINAL EXAMS:
It’s Not Over ‘til It’s Over!
Dr. Saundra Y. McGuire
Center for Academic Success
B-31 Coates Hall
2004 National College Learning Center Association
Frank L. Christ Outstanding Learning Center Award
Are any of your final grades already
determined before you take the final exam?
Why is the final exam so important?
What study strategies have worked for you?
Prerequisites for Success
Mastery of all Concepts
(not rote memorization!)
Realistic Study Schedule
Effective Use of Resources (office
hours, tutorial room, etc.)
This pyramid depicts the different levels of thinking we use when learning.
Notice how each level builds on the foundation that precedes it. It is
required that we learn the lower levels before we can effectively use the
Taxonomy Evaluation Making decisions and
Combining information to understanding of
form a unique product; Synthesis values.
requires creativity and
Using information to solve and semantics.
abstract or theoretical ideas
to practical situations. Application
Identifying connections and
relationships and how they
apply. Restating in
your own words;
information. Being able to
remember, but not
Louisiana State University Center for Academic Success B-31 Coates Hall 225-578-2872 www.cas.lsu.edu
So, What Can You Do for Finals?
Spend enough time reviewing and
mastering the material
Aim for 100% mastery
Use office hours for clarification
Use the Study Cycle with Intense Study
The Study Cycle
Phase One: Read or preview chapters to be covered in
class… before class (Create chapter maps)
Phase Two: Go to Class. Listen actively, take notes, participate
Phase Three: Review and process class notes as soon as
possible after class
Phase Four: Incorporate Intense Study Sessions
Intense Study Sessions
5 minutes: Set goals for next 40 min.
40 minutes: Read text more selectively/highlight
Make doodles/notes in margins
Create mnemonics, work examples
5 minutes Review what you have just studied
10 minutes Take a break
Get the Most Out of Lecture
Review notes soon after class
Rethink all examples covered
Cornell Note Format
Recall Notes on Taking Notes, 9/14/98
Column: Uses of notes
Reduce ideas identify major points
and facts to identify minor points
summaries There are 4 Kinds of Notes:
and cues for Running Text
reciting, Formal Outline
reviewing and Informal Outline
reflecting Cornell Note system
Exam Preparation Stage I
Before the Exam
Use The Study Cycle
Utilize Intensive Study Sessions
Exam Preparation Stage II
1 – 2 Weeks Before the Exam
PlanFinal Exam Review
Aim for 100% Mastery!!!
Construct Practice Exam with Friends
Locate Exam Room
Double check time of exam
Eat Well, Sleep Well, and Exercise
Survey the Task
Gather Information from...
instructor text lecture notes
to answer the following questions:
1. What will the test cover?
2. Is it comprehensive or non-comprehensive?
3. What kinds of questions will be used?
4. How many questions (of each type)?
5. Where/when will the test be given?
6. Will I need any special test materials?
Schedule Enough Time
Make a “Master To Do” list
List specific details (chapters to read, study exercises, etc.)
How much time do I need to study for each class?
Create a study schedule
How much time do I have before the exam?
Where and what kinds of time-blocks do I have available?
How will I distribute my study time?
Create intermediate deadlines
Schedule time for fun
Schedule time for consolidation
Study Schedule - Task Oriented
French Ch. 6,7 *French Exam at 2
Johnson article Math Assignment
Math assignment Comm. articles
French Ch. 8, 9 Comm. Ch. 10, 11
Lab assignment Make weekend
study Comm. Ch. 9 schedule
Wednesday Study Group
Organize The Information
Prepare charts or summary sheets
Integrate notes with text information
Make concept maps
Predict test questions
Memorize, create mnemonics
Aim for 100% mastery!
Intend to remember
RECITE and WRITE!
Learn in as many ways/modalities as possible
Visually, kinesthetically, by association, organization (e.g. outline or
map), study group…
Focus attention – lose the cell phone dependency!
Schedule time for assimilation
Learn a variety of ways to trigger memory
Lecture notes and textbook notes
Study Sheets and study group notes
Old exams (retake them!)
Tips for Science and Math Exams
Develop a list of types of problems
Develop problem solving protocols
(steps for solving types of problems
Develop a practice test with randomly
Practice solving problems quickly
Exam Preparation Stage III
Day of the Exam
Calmly rehearse facts, formulas, ideas
Perform deep breathing to relax
Use positive self-talk
Arrive at the exam room a few minutes
early; not too early!
Exam Preparation Stage IV
During the Exam
Perform deep breathing to relax; use positive
Write down formulas on exam before you begin
Read the directions VERY carefully; listen for
additional directions; ask for clarification
Survey the exam and budget your time
Share what you know! And you know it all!!!
Expect memory blocks
Tips for Multiple Choice Tests
Try to answer the question WITHOUT
looking at the choices
Look at one option at a time, and treat each
answer as a true or false question
Note that the longest choice is often correct
Make sure the answer is grammatically
Read all choices before settling on one
Note answers with “all of the above” etc.
Tips for True False Tests
Watch for words such as always, never. These
are usually false; but not always!
Watch for words such as seldom and usually.
These are often true; but not always!
Use the rest of the test for information
If in doubt; go with your intuition
Don’t change an answer unless you’re
absolutely sure you should!
Tips for Essay Tests
Examine the question and organize your
thoughts before you start to write
Outline or map your response before you write
Have a beginning, middle, and end
If you run out of time, outline the remaining
questions for partial credit
Proofread your answers; make sure all are
Exam Preparation Stage V
After the Exam Plan
Leave the area promptly; don’t talk about the
Let it go!
Reward yourself for your hard work
Resume preparation for next examination or
celebrate that all your exams are over!
If your final grade is lower than you expected,
ask to see your final exam at beginning of the
next term. There may have been a grading
Use Concept Mapping for
Preparation and for Essay Exams
Create a Chapter Map
Title of Chapter
(Comments go (Comments go
Cause and Effect:
Reasons, Facts, Examples Reasons, Facts, Examples
Compare and Contrast
Concept #1 Concept #2
How are they similar?
How are they different?
Get Organized Use Study Techniques Balance Life
Continuous Intense Concept Physical
Process of Study Mapping Spiritual
Learning Sessions Emotional
1.preview 1.goal Social
2.Class 2.50 minutes
Mistakes to Avoid!
Letting the time “sneak up” on you
Basing your judgment of knowledge on
your short term memory
Letting others derail your study schedule
Aiming for less than 100% mastery
Failing to believe in yourself!!!
A Tale of Two More LSU Students
Amy, junior organic chemistry student
54, 82, 76, 78
Michael, senior pre-medical organic student
30, 28, 80, 91
If you think you can,
If you think you can’t,
I KNOW you can!
The Center for Academic Success
B-31 Coates Hall
Unlock your excellence!!!
Please write the following:
One study strategy you plan to implement to
increase your mastery of course concepts and/or
study for final exams.
(Copy this for yourself as a constant reminder.)