In college, the first tests in any class can be a disaster. You don’t know what will be on the test, and you don’t know how the teacher grades. Grades on the first test tend to be lower than other grades. Some of this improvement is just familiarity with what to expect on the test. But students who get good grades have a structured approach for learning from their mistakes.
Think about how you approach a new video game. You are probably not very good at first, but you get better as you learn from your mistakes. Doing well in college involves the same approach. You learn from what you did wrong and get better.
To learn to do better in classes, you need to ask yourself these questions.
- What did the teacher emphasize on the test?
- Were the test questions from the lecture exclusively or did some questions come from the reading?
- Were the questions like the homework or were some questions extensions beyond what was done on homework?
- Were you hurried in doing the test? Do you need to practice working faster before the next test?
- Were there trick questions or were questions straight forward?
- Did the teacher give any tips about what was going to be on the test by his/her points of emphasis in class?
- When partial credit was given on problem tests, what seemed to get the most partial credit?
- If you had old tests to study from, were the questions on this test similar to those on previous tests? How can you use any similarity you find to prepare for the next test?
- When you missed a question what was the reason?
- Did you know the specific material related to the question?
- Did you make a silly mistake?
- Were you confused by the question?
- Did you second guess yourself and change a correct answer into a wrong one?
- Did you study enough?
- Did you get a good night’s sleep?
- Did you study the right material?
- Did you answer the questions first that you knew?
- Did you pace yourself?
- Did you rework the questions you were unsure of?
- What will you do differently on the next test in this class?
The key to learning from your mistakes is to answer each of these questions in writing. When we actually write out an answer, we tend to go into more depth into what we can learn from a test experience.