Taking Exams (by Nelson Padua-Perez)
This document presents some suggestions on how to prepare and take
exams. These are my opinions and not necessarily the CS Dept opinions
:). If you have any suggestions on how to prepare/take exams drop me
a line (e-mail: my first name followed by cs.umd.edu).
- The best preparation you can do is to try to study every day. Even
if it just for a couple of minutes.
- In lecture, try to pay attention to the material that is being discussed.
Many exam questions come from details discussed in lecture. Challenge yourself
in lecture to try not only to understand the material, but to ask questions
that help you understand the material better.
- Practice exercises associated with the exam material. First, you should take
as much time as you need, but eventually you want to time yourself. If you have
old exams, make sure you complete them in the specified time on the exam. Training
yourself to answer questions in a particular period of time is extremely important.
- Go beyond the exercises they have provided you. In several classes you are
given some practice exercises for an exam. Go beyond that. Create your own, or
meet with classmates to create additional exercises. Come up with exercises that
have a difficulty comparable to what you have been provided, but also, come up
with harder exercises. If you feel comfortable with hard problems, you will do
better in the exam.
- Try to predict the kind of questions you will be asked. You can meet with classmates
and discuss the possibilities. In this case, being "evil" helps.
- Do not meet in groups to study; meet in groups to review exercises you have completed or
for other members to grade your answers.
- Study the projects you have completed for the class. These projects are a good
source of exam questions.
- For computer programming classes, you need to practice on paper, and not just
on the computer. This is extremely important.
- Have a good night sleep before an exam.
- Try to perform an activity that releases stress (e.g., exercising).
- Being a little anxious for an exam is normal, but if you get extremely anxious to
the point you cannot answer questions, seek professional assistance. Notice
that preparing well for an exam helps reduce anxiety.
Taking the Exam
- Come prepared to the exam by:
Going to the restroom :).
Coming with at least two pencils/pen and eraser.
- Bringing a watch (this is super important).
- Arriving early. This will allow you to find the best
- Avoiding caffeine. Caffeine can make you anxious in
addition to be a diuretic. Protein and complex carbohydrates are
a good energy source.
- By drinking water. The brains need to be hydrated to function properly.
Take sips of water while studying and taking exams.
Read the exam instructions; do not skip them.
Quickly look at all the questions of the exam and tackle
those that are the easiest first.
Assign to each question in the exam a particular amount of time,
once you have a sense of the questions difficulty level. For example, if
you have a 50 minutes exam, and have 4 problems of equal difficulty,
stop working on a problem after 10 minutes. Always allocate
some extra time at the end to review your exam.
- If you don't know how to answer a question, move on to the next
one. Do not stay in the same problem for a long time. Many times
we can see the solution to a problem when we look at it a second time.
- Keep track of time by looking at your watch often.
- Make sure you have provided something for every problem. I would say
that once you have most of a problem done, move to the next one and return
later to finish the problem. This will allow you to tackle every problem.
You may miss some points on the problem you did not finish (if you ran out
of time) but will have points for every problem :)
- If you start feeling anxious take a few deep breaths.