Analyze Your Test

Why should you analyze your tests?

It’s important for you to know why you missed questions. Then you can determine which study strategies worked and which didn’t work and make the necessary adjustments for improvement on your next exam. Don’t let your ego get in the way of finding out how to study more effective.

After the exam is returned, make an appointment with your instructor and look at the questions you missed. Ask yourself the following questions to help determine why they were missed and then click on the question for Suggested Study Solutions.

This is a serious problem if you went into the exam feeling that you understood the material.

Suggested Study Solutions:
Know what mastery of the material means. Mastery means you can write or explain the material or work the problems (in science or math). Find out what you don’t know by closing the book and your notes at the end of the study session. Then write down everything you can remember. Restudy what you cannot remember. Repeat the same procedure during subsequent study sessions until you have mastered the material.

b) Mastery means you understand the material at increasingly difficult levels. Professors design exams to test students at all different levels of knowledge. (See Study Skills Success Series brochure on Asking the Right Questions). You may be able to answer all the questions at one level (ex. recall level), but those types of questions may constitute only a small part of the exam.

c) Once you begin to understand something, don’t leave it. Go in for the kill. Make sure you really do understand. This can mean working additional problems or writing main points. Without full understanding, you will have to start from the beginning of the material at each study session.

Your professor may have given clues in the lecture and assignments as to what material should be emphasized.

Suggested Study Solutions:
When the professor spends a long time on a topic, you should spend a proportional amount of time studying that topic. Look for these clues from the professor to help you focus your study time:
        a. The professor uses a number of examples or problems to illustrate the concept
        b. The professor writes the topic on the blackboard or transparency
        c. The professor refers back to the topic in subsequent lectures
        d. The professor tells you that material is important

Suggested Study Solutions – Ask yourself the following study questions:
a) Did you know what answer should be and in what units?
b) Did you know the background material well enough in your head to answer the question?
c) Did you know what formulas to use?
d) Did you know how to do the math calculations?
e) Did the answer seem reasonable?

Know what’s bothering you about a problem. Use the fives questions listed above to help you determine why you cannot work a problem. Look for a pattern in what you missed. For example, if you do not understand the underlying material (#2), you will not be able to solve the problems.

Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t work only the easy problems. The key to answering test problems correctly is to have worked enough problems (including the difficult ones) so that you have a “feel” for working a problem type. The means practice, practice, practice.

There aren’t any shortcuts. Don’t focus only on procedures for solving problems. Concentrate on understanding the basics so you can answer multiple questions about the material.

Suggested Study Solution – Get used to working with different ways of saying the same thing. Practice writing explanations in your own words as much as possible. Draw diagrams or make lists that organize the material in ways that are meaningful to you and will help you remember.

Suggested Study Solutions – This is a problem of accessing material from your memory, not a problem of understanding the material. When the answer doesn’t come immediately, students may panic and guess wildly. Instead of guessing in a panic…
a) Look for key terms in the question stem that may help you link with the key terms in your memory.
b) Think over all you know about the topic. Try to visualize your notes.
c) Give yourself time to think. If you cannot think of the answer, cross out obvious wrong answers and make an educated guess. Circle the question to remind yourself to come back to it and then continue with the test.

Suggested Study Solutions:
a) Before you start, look over the whole exam. Based on the point value and difficulty of each question, decide how much time you will spend on each section
b) Write neatly so you can  follow your thought process
c) Be wary of answers that don’t make sense
d) Take questions at face value. Don’t read too much into the questions
e) Don’t change the answers unless you suddenly recall new information you had forgotten
f) Answer the easier questions first to get your mind working and to provide a background to answer the more difficult questions
g) Realize that exam pressure happens to everyone at some time