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. The first test in a new course is usually the most difficult. While the course content may get tougher later in the semester, the uncertainty of what to expect on the first test makes it tougher. You can use the first test as a guideline for how the instructor teaches and how you should adapt your study habits.
With that being said, grades on the first test tend to be lower than on other tests. Some of this test improvement is just familiarity with what to expect on the test. But students who get good grades on future tests 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?
- Didn’t know the specific material related to the question
- Made a silly mistake
- Was confused by the question
- Other reason
- How well were you prepared for the test?
- Did you study enough?
- Did you get a good night’s sleep?
- Did you eat breakfast?
- Did you study the right material?
- Did you answer the questions that you knew first?
- Did you pace yourself?
- Did you rework the problems you were unsure of?
- What will you do differently on the next test in this class?
- Where were your notes lacking that caused you to have a lapse in your studies?
- What does the teacher look for when grading papers?
The key to learning from your mistakes is to answer each of these questions in writing. When you actually write out an answer, you tend to go into more depth into what you can learn from a test experience. It helps to also review these questions with friends..