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Testing Exam prep advice?

  1. Dec 6, 2017 #1
    I'm a first year physics undergrad and my finals start on the 17th ( 17th - calculus, 19th - physics, 21st linear algebra) and I was wondering if I could have some advice on how to study or whether or not the way I am studying is a good idea/ how to improve it. I don't really have a great deal of time left to study (especially if you consider half of the day when I don't feel like doing anything)

    How I've studied:
    Over the last 5 days I've covered 3/5 chapters for calculus by doing the online quizzes and finishing the chapter reviews.

    I've covered half of linear algebra - instead of going over each chapter individually, I'm only concentrating on the major chapters as those chapters also cover the first 4-5 chapters in the course (they use the same skills).

    I haven't exactly started on physics yet - will be starting tomorrow.

    A lot of times I don't feel like doing anything so I don't try to force myself into it - I watch a show or play tetris or something, and then ease my way into studying - not sure if that's a good idea or not.
    I'll be starting the mock exams next week, and again the day before my actual exam.

    Is there something I should change, something I'm doing well? something else I should try to do ?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 7, 2017 #2


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    Gold Member

    Here's my first suggestion, create a timetable. Create set times where you must work and set times where you can play Tetris or watch videos. First look through your week and see when it is appropriate to do whatever you want (tetris time) and make sure that at these times you are not allowed to do work. You have to have a break and prioritize your break over everything else. After you have sorted out your free time, put in your study time into the timetable. For example: start off by putting down that you have 5 hours on the weekends to do whatever you want and 2 hours on the weekdays (add as much time until you feel satisfied that you have enough recreational time). The rest of the time will go towards studying.

    What most students do is that they prioritize study and end up not doing anything because they subconsciously feel they are pressuring themselves. This is why you end up not studying or not feeling like studying sometimes because your mind is telling yourself you are doing too much even though you might not be. After you have made the timetable, try and stick to it. Remind yourself that this is simply for a few weeks until you ace your exams. Also remind yourself that you have prioritized breaks. So don't feel downhearted when studying; know that you have enough break time after studying dedicated-ly.

    Another tip is to mix your studies. Do a little bit of that and a little bit of this. The topics you are studying are closely related so you shouldn't have a problem doing this. The simple reason for this is that you might forget something you studied a long while back. Make sure you are continuously dedicated to each and every subject.

    I hope this helped. I speak from experience, I haven't reached grad-level yet, but I have been faced by heavy examination in a short period of time. These methods have worked for me and I hope they do for you. Good luck on your exams.
  4. Dec 8, 2017 #3
    Thank you so much! I have about 12 days to go, but I feel like I haven't done much :(

    I've only done 3/5 calc chapters (not in huge detail - I've only done chapter reviews and went over concepts I didn't understand, as well as theorems I need to know from those chapters.

    For linear algebra all I've covered so far is multiplying matrices, row reducing, finding determinants, finding eigen vectors/values, and diagonalizing - all of which are connected to each other. I some what covered polar forms - still have basic vector stuff, linear transformations and some other things left to go over.

    As for physics, I've done the homework problems for 2 chapters, and then tried the previous exam today ( that's all I did today) - made some tiny mistakes because I interpreted a question incorrectly.

    I feel like i'm not studying a lot - at most, I feel like i'm doing one subject a day, and only spending about like 2-4 hours a day actually studying.

    It's not supposed to feel like this, is it? :/
  5. Dec 9, 2017 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    What have you been doing all quarter/semester? Have you saved all of the work and studying for the last two weeks? From your description, this seems like your present situation. If that's the case, and at your rate of 2 to 4 hours a day of studying, I'm not too optimistic about your chances. For university courses, the expectation is typically that students will spend two to three hours of study, for each hour of each class. That's a lot more time than two to four hours a day for all three of your classes in the final two weeks.

    If you're spending this time reviewing, rather than going through it for the first time this semester, that's a different story, but if so, that didn't come across in your explanation.
  6. Dec 9, 2017 #5


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    I agree with Mark44, you need to step your game up if you want to do well in any exams. You should be studying whenever you have free time if this is your situation now. I would expect 6-7 hours of studying everyday.

    If you feel like you're not studying enough, study more. You control yourself.
  7. Dec 9, 2017 #6
    No,no I’ve been studying through out the semester - always finished my homework, always asked for help with physics when needed and participated in class. My tests for calculus I had to study and learn things for as well and the tests covered every chapter. For linear algebra I’ve always had assignments and my professor doesn’t teach well so I was forced to use the assignments and teach my self and what not, as well as make sure I understand everything going on in class. So I have been studying but I feel dissatisfied I guess.
  8. Dec 9, 2017 #7


    Staff: Mentor

    Well, I'm glad to hear that, and it makes me a lot more optimistic. Has your teacher provided any guidance as to what will be on the exam?
    Or maybe just losing steam. If you've been working hard all term, it's hard to keep focused at the end. Maybe you could get a bit more structure into your study by setting goals of studying two hours (maybe using an alarm clock), and then taking a break to relax for a specific amount of time. You might turn some of those break times into doing something physical, like exercise or run or even just take a walk. If you set goals for how long you're going to work and how long your breaks will be, and stick to the plan, you're likely to get a lot more done. I think it's more productive to work a while, then take a short break, than it is to just grind away. In those break times, your brain has an opportunity to look at different approaches when it's "idling" -- moreso than if you just keep working without breaks.

    Part of the study time should be in going over any returned homework, quizzes, previous exams, and making sure you understand the problems that were marked wrong, and how to work them through successfully.

    Anyway, good luck on these classes!
  9. Dec 9, 2017 #8
    To add what Mark said,

    a good app is called Forest App. Its a timer on your phone that keeps you from accessing texts or internet. You can set it for, say 60 minutes, then set a timer for a break. It tracks your time so you can see how youre doing daily and weekly in terms of study time.
  10. Dec 11, 2017 #9
    Thank you!

    My prof hasn't given us any information for what's on the exam - my friend's prof, however did, so I'm using that as a guideline - apparently I've already covered 70-80% of what's on that check list :') Yay!
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