Studying for Tests

To answer the question: yes, I did drop off the planet these last few days. Actually I’ve just been running all over the place. My roommate’s family came into town which meant lots of time not spent studying for my accounting test. Shoot, very little time to study! What do you do typically in those situations?

Personally, instead of stressing out, I decided to do the last thing most people probably would: I took a nap. Sure, there may be a lot to do but I figured I’d want to take care of everything once I was well rested. In short, it worked out for the best… the test was Monday evening (7:00pm) and I napped until 1:45am that morning. I proceeded to study my notes, homework and practice problems. I took a nap between and then one more at 6:00am.

Sure, I could’ve stayed up all night and read everything I could possibly find… but that’s a waste of time. When it comes to studying, tests, and school in general I’m a big fan of benefit-cost analysis. In other words I asked myself: How often do I see these people (roommate’s family)? Would the few hours spent with them be worth more than the extra time spent on practice problems? The answer was yes. How? Put simply: the few hours spent re-reading all the material would only earn a few more percentage points. Points which can easily be made up later…

So how do I go about studying for tests? Well, the first test in a class is always the best. It sets the pace for the rest of the year. So, I essentially do the (I know this will sound bad) bare minimum required to understand all the material. For example, I had a Cost Management test last week which I studied a little bit for. Why didn’t I dedicate a lot of time to it? I did pretty well on all the previous homeworks (which were largely problem solving). All I had to do then is re-familiarize myself with them. From there all I needed to do was read the chapter notes and slides. The end result was nearly a perfect score on the math problems. I had already spent the time mastering the material once or twice a week (through homework). The multiple choice questions? Those are a different story. I did alright, but, as I mentioned, this is the first test and those points tell me where I need to focus more energy next time.

My point is, I studied until I felt comfortable enough to go into a test with a decent understanding of all the material on it. Did I know each chapter in-depth? No. Did I know any chapter in-depth? No. Did I need to? My grade (a B) suggests I didn’t. Having never actually read a chapter from the book I feel this is a great way to set the bar for the rest of the semester. It’s quite obvious where I need to go from here. I need to read a bit more and make sure I’m familiar with multiple-choice questions. Simple as that.

How do I know this works? Why is it I don’t just end up with the same score as the first test? Simple: I change my study behavior. The first accounting class I took in college was the hardest thing I had encountered. I got a 73 on the first test. I worked smarter (not harder) and started to realize what would work best; I got an 85. By the final I had perfected my study routine and scored 107%. There was no curve, he just added 10 questions (worth 1-point each). That means I either missed one question from the test or 3 of the extra questions.

In short, spend the time ‘studying’ as the semester progresses. Sure, I understand the need to study for hours and hours before a big test. But, if you prepare along the way, it makes the act of studying that much easier.

Yes, I’m on the Dean’s List. I know I’m in (at least) the top 7 percent of the school. But that doesn’t necessairly mean I’m “smart”. You don’t have to be “smart” to succeed… look at the Fortune 500 CEOs. No, all you have to be is clever.