A student has an important test coming up—say in mathematics. He makes a good study plan and follows through on it. So far so good—or seemingly so. However, when he gets the test back his score is a D+. The student is stunned: “But I studied so hard!” he says, and can’t understand how all that work amounted to such a poor result.
If this sounds like something you’ve experienced, I recommend you do the following. First, ask the teacher to schedule time to go over the test with you. When you’re reviewing your answers with the teacher you should be asking the following questions about each “wrong” answer:
(1) Did I understand the question?
(2) Did I know the material?
(3) Did I understand the question but not know how to apply what I studied?
Over the years I’ve found that there’s a pretty even spread amongst those three questions. Sometimes students just don’t understand test questions—questions may be poorly worded and hard to figure out. Another scenario — and this happens all too frequently—students mis-read questions because they are rushing. This is a shame because they actually understsood the question and could have scored points, but instead lost out because they were too hasty. Learn to use the tools for calming down to keep a consistent level of calm throughout the test.
Knowing the material is, of course, essential, for any test. But sometimes students don’t study the right material, or—another common error in test preparation—they put off studying what’s hardest about the subject, giving their time to the easier stuff. This kind of delaying the inevitable always increases stress and usually produces poor results. Always start your studying with the hardest material first.
The third issue—applying the material you have studied—is perhaps the most challenging. Most people equate “learning” with memorizing, thinking that if they memorize everything they’ll do well on the test. While memorizing has its definite and necessary place, a good test will challenge you to use and apply what you’ve memorized, not just spit it back on the answer sheet. Said another way, you have to be flexible with the material. One way of practicing this while you are studying is to explain the material to someone else; or, with a study-buddy, create questions for each other that require more flexible thinking.
Remember: make your study time valuable by slowing down, tackling the harder stuff first, and making sure you really understand what you’re memorizing. Then you’re really learning and your test scores will reflect it.
Of course, this is all assuming you’ve been using the tools for staying calm, confident and focused! Those nine tools are the foundation of all top performance