Wednesday, December 3, 2014

That Test Screwed Me Over — Now What?



Personally, I feel if you haven’t felt (to put it bluntly) “screwed over” by a test at some point in your student life, you’re either very good at studying or telling a lie. I know I’ve gone into a test expecting to do one type of problem and walked out having blanked at an entirely new other type of problem. Or I thought I totally understood what my teacher was asking for but turns out they were looking for completely different answers.

If you’ve been in this spot before, you’re probably feeling helpless and frustrated – which is completely understandable. But take a deep breath, cool your head. It’ll be okay. Check out these tips that I’ve tried to make the whole test-taking ordeal a little better:

More Effective Studying

In the past, part of the problem was that I didn’t know everything I needed to know for the test, which was my bad. Even though teachers would give us handouts with fill-in-the-blank spaces to complete as the lecture continued, I would end up losing focus and let my attention drift. This usually happened because I hadn’t slept enough the night before. Even though it feels like staying up late to study will be productive, because you’re shoving knowledge into your mind, the fatigue that settles in from that sacrificed sleep comes back to bite you worse.

Teachers play a part, too. Once you’re paying more attention during actual class time, rather than cramming frantically later, you’ll be alert to the things your teacher says that aren’t on the presentation slides. Maybe they’ll reference a section to pay special attention to, or open it up for clarifying questions, which you should definitely take advantage of.

In summary: study more effectively, and pay more attention to your teachers, because you never know when they’ll drop some crucial information.

Decrease Test Anxiety

Another potential pitfall for me is when I’ve studied and/or crammed like crazy for my exams, but ended up blanking completely on all the details I reviewed when I saw the test for the first time. And it doesn’t end in high school – my most recent Nutrition Science midterm in college had the same effect on me, and I couldn’t stop mixing up the sources, properties, and causes of Vitamin B-6 versus B-12.

It happens. It really does and, in the moment, you can’t do much about it, but you can work to prevent it. I personally intend to study so much Nutrition Science for my next midterm that I begin to grow mushrooms on my head and get those vitamin-specific details down for good.

Stress management tips include meditation, deep breathing (I’ve tried this before, but somehow I don’t think I’m doing it correctly), relying on your friends, taking a hot shower to loosen up those muscles stiff from camping out in the library, and laughing a lot! If laughter can help you live longer, why can’t it help you get a better grade?

“And That’s Life!”

When I took AP Biology in junior year, I was intensely afraid of the exams. While I wasn’t having too much difficulty grasping the material we learned in class, I would start the free response section of an essay and write everything I possibly could to answer the question. But when I got my exams back, all I could see were those 1/4 and 0/2 scores, taunting me next to the paragraphs I scribbled until my hands ached a little.

Why couldn’t I just get it right? I wrote so much and had so much to say about cellular respiration, and ecology, and all that good stuff, yet I couldn’t show my teacher that I knew enough to get a good grade.

Looking back, I think it’s now a combination of my teacher’s grading style and my personal study style that caused tests to come back to me less peachy than I’d hoped. My teacher was looking for specific things – key words – in the short responses that she possibly didn’t articulate to us or assumed we already knew, and I was writing in key words and processes I thought were “key,” but often turned out to be supporting details to a point I couldn’t communicate fully. I feel like that happened multiple times. And now, even though I was so upset about not getting a good grade in AP Biology because of bad test scores, you just have to suck it up sometimes. It’s easy to give up on studying hard and keeping up when you feel like your efforts just go to waste, but hang in here. In the end, all my note-taking and practice exam sessions paid off with my AP Biology exam score. It wasn’t a perfect 5, but I’d earned it with my own hard work. You can do it, too.

Have you ever had an experience like this? Tell us about it in a comment below!

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