Preparing For Exams And Papers
Preparing For Exams And Papers
Jonathan O’Brien, Ed.D. (Associate Dean of Students, Occidental College) gives expert video advice on: How can I stay on top of course work and homework in college?; How can I study more effectively during college?; How can I improve my college paper writing? and more...
What is an 'all-nighter' in college life?
All-nighters are a staple of college life. They are just that - studying all night to get the work done for a class the next morning. It can work for people, but it's not something that should be done all of the time. Often, students will fuel their all-nighter with caffeine or sugar, and that doesn't help the next day. That doesn't help when doing multiple courses, so it's very good to plan your studies and to make sure that you can anticipate what you need to do throughout the semester so that you do not have to do an all-nighter.
What are 'study groups' and are they helpful?
A study group is often an impromptu casual group that a student and fellow students will gather together to make the material a little more understandable. Getting together in a group, with a group of fellow classmates is also a great way of make friends and to learn the material by talking amongst each other and by learning and reading certain chapters or pieces of that work, and then coming together and sharing what each person is learning and contributing to the group's knowledge. Sometimes study groups are assigned by faculty members as part of group projects, and that also accomplishes the same goal. A lot of times informal study groups are a lot more fun and they are way of really understanding a material a lot better.
What are college 'final exams' and how can I prepare for them?
Final exams are the tests, papers or laboratory assignments that are given at the end of a quarter or semester. And many times they are the cumulative summary of everything that you have learned in that course over the 10 to 15 weeks, or how ever long the term is. The final exam is going to be your chance to show the instructor that you have learned everything that they have taught. The final exams also can sometimes just be based upon the material that's in the preceding three or four weeks. So it is very important for you to know what is going to be on that final exam. Ask your instructors, and study with your peers. Don't go into that final exam cold. It is very important.
What are some key test taking tips for college exams?
It depends upon the subject, but the testing that occurs in a course is a very important way for you to know how well you're doing. It's not only about the instructor putting you through your paces, it is about you knowing, "How well am I absorbing this material?" So, to be able to give your best in that kind of an assessment it's very important to get plenty of rest the night before the exam. It's also very important to have done your homework and study throughout the exam period, which could include the entire semester, or just the few weeks before the course. It also is very important for you to have communicated with the professor not only in class, but also in office hours beforehand, so that you're very clear on what the test is going to entail. Many times I talk to students who come out of a test and say, "I think I did really great", and then they find out that they didn't do so well on that exam. It's because they studied so hard, but for the wrong thing. It's very important that you are familiar with what the instructor is going to put on the exam and that you have studied the right topics, and that includes speaking to the professor, as well as attending class on a regular basis.
What goals should I set for myself early in college?
It's very important for college students to set goals early in their college experience. That includes not only, "What are my plans for academic success?" but it also includes "What sort of electives do I want to take?" "What courses do I want to take for my minor?" There's also the whole other realm of "What sort of social goals do I have?" "How do I want to live my life as a college student?" College offers a great opportunity to reinvent yourself from high school. Your goals can be very important in achieving the kind the of life and person that you want to become. The people that you meet in college are really going to be your friends, potentially, for the rest of your life and employment contacts as well as social contacts, and possibly even a future marriage partner. This means that it is important to go into the college experience with thoughts such as "How many clubs or organizations do I want to join?" "When am I going to study and how?" "Will I get a job?" "How often will I go home or call my parents?" "What sort of things am I going to do to become a successful, well-rounded student?"
What are 'extracurricular activities'?
Extracurricular activities are a very important component of any college student's education. A lot of times people tend to put extracurricular activities on the side and say, "Well, this is just something that I do for fun." By all means what you do out of class should be fun, but there's also learning that can occur in that experience. Most colleges have a variety of extracurricular opportunities, including some sort of student government organization - a residence hall association. Often, there's a group of students that put on entertainment programs, such as dances and major concerts. It's an opportunity to gain leadership skills. It's an opportunity to learn how to manage a budget. It's an opportunity to learn how to recruit people to participate in the kinds of things that you are passionate about and to really get to meet new people and have a good time. All of that is a learning opportunity. That's one thing that I really stress - make time for extracurricular activities.
Why is it important to get involved in extracurricular activities during college?
Extracurricular activities are important to your education because they help you apply what you've learned in the classroom, the abstract theories and the philosophies that you've learned, to a real-world example. A student government officer, like a treasurer or a leader of a club, learns some very important lessons about political science, about accounting, and about how to communicate with people. Those are all things that you read about in class, but they're not necessarily things that you get a chance to practice. The other thing that's really important about being involved in extracurricular is, after you graduate, you've gained a lot of practical experience on the job, or at least experience with other people, interacting and creating programs and budgets, and promoting your ideas. It's important to consider that there are a lot of people who graduate from college every year. Many of them will have majored in the same thing you did. They will have got the same grades that you did. What are you going to do to make yourself stand out? It's the extracurricular involvement that you have that will be that value added on your resume, that will make you stand out.
What is a college 'GPA' and how is it calculated?
GPA stands for grade point average, and grade point average is a measure of your academic progress throughout your educational career. Each letter grade is worth a certain number of progress points. A is usually equal to 4.0, B a 3, C is 2, D is a 1 and F is worth 0. When you add up all those progress points for all of the courses that you take each semester and divide them by the number of courses that you've taken, you get a grade point average.
How important is GPA in my college experience?
Many students tend to focus almost exclusively on their grade point average, and get very anxious about making sure their grade point average is as high as it possibly can be. To a degree, I must say that is correct. It's very important to have a high GPA if one is going to apply for certain kinds of scholarships, to apply for certain types of jobs after graduation, and certainly to go to graduate school, a high GPA is very important. I have to always balance that by saying we are not only our GPA in college; there are a lot more things that you can learn, and a lot more things that students do that means it takes time away from study, and time away from study sometimes correlates to a slightly lower GPA, but what you learn from that time away from and out of college can many times be just as beneficial. So if you're spending some time at a job, as well as being involved in a club or an organization, if your GPA is a high B average, a 3.5, a 3.7, and you have a lot of involvement and leadership as well as a part time job that's related to your major, I would say that you would still be a very attractive candidate to a graduate school and certainly to an employer.