English students ask me all the time: “What’s the best way to prepare for my exam?”
I tell almost every student the same thing.
TAKE PRACTICE TESTS!
Much of the material I use in my English courses comes from exam prep material that is taken directly from actual Cambridge or British Council exams.
Numerous studies have shown that taking practice tests is the number one thing a student can do to improve their test scores. Why? Well, there’s a couple of reasons.
The first reason is that a practice test gives you the chance to get familiar with the exact format of an exam. You will be comfortable with the length of the test, the types of questions, and how long it takes you to get through each section.
What you’re doing by taking the exam over and over is building competence in your brain. You are gaining experience and building the skill for taking that particular type of test. By practicing that skill over and over you will build confidence through repetition. And as they say, repetition is the father of learning.
Another thing you’re doing when you take practice tests is you’re forcing your brain to recall the information that it has learned. That’s the exact same task your brain will have to perform on the day of the test. Recalling all of the information that you’ve learned up to that point.
So how do you put together a plan to study in the most effective way? Give this a shot.
Try putting together a study plan one week at a time. Decide which skills or parts of the test you want to focus on this week. You could choose matching headings, word transformation, or even multiple choice.
Make a schedule for you to do 4-6 of those exercises in one week, and then from all of that material create a mini-final exam for yourself to take on Friday with no studying beforehand.
You will then be free to focus on learning new information during the week, and then on Fridays you can test yourself on your information recall.
Every couple of weeks you can combine all of your mini-final exams into one larger exam, just to keep all of the information fresh in your mind.
Every month or so make yourself take a full practice exam to see how your hard work is paying off. Make sure you keep track of your scores and see what areas of the exam you need improvement on most.
I know it may seem like overkill, but researchers have shown that not only is it important to eat a balanced meal on the day of your exam but also to eat balanced meals for the 5 days before your exam.
By eating the right mix of carbs, protein, and fat, your give your body the proper energy levels it needs to be able to perform at a high level for 4+ hours on exam day.
Don’t believe anything I’ve said? Check out this article from the Wall Street Journal
about a guy who doubled his SAT (American University entrance exam) just by changing his study technique to the one I detailed above.
If you have any questions about your exam prep, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck and happy studying!