I haven’t talked about credit by exam for a while, but with the new school year underway, it’s about time to get some new exams on our schedule. CLEP, DSST, and AP exams are no easy task to take on, so you can’t expect to study for them casually and still pass. Kira has learned the hard way that there are some study skills that I nagged about last year that are really important. Maybe not as fun, but much more effective when you wish to pass an exam.
Take active notes
Highlighting doesn’t count. You have to use good ‘ol pen and paper to write down summaries, questions, interesting points, and anything else to help you remember the content. I’ve been amazed at how much I remember if I stop at the end of each section and come up with a one or two sentence summary of what I’ve read. As smart as you might be, your eyes glazing over a page of words isn’t going to fare well come test day.
Don’t listen to music
At least not the type with words. You can’t reliably expect your mind to block out words from music all the while taking in words from a page you are reading. If you really do better with background noise, try something without words or even better, nature sounds. Even with changing to wordless music, my gut tells me that having headphones in is a bit too much to block out, but you have to weigh the pros and cons. Our house has a bit of chaos from time to time with the little kids, so headphones might be a better option than listening to nature sounds and screaming kids.
Sure, you can read 100 pages from your favorite novel at 11pm, but that might not be the best time to study US History. Again, eyes glazing over a book does not equate to quality studying. Most people can study earlier in the morning, after breakfast (or at least after waking up a bit), and again after dinner. Mid afternoon and late night tend to be brain drain times, at least in our family.
Study, double check, and study again
Do not leave anything unturned. If you have a book, flash cards, and an online practice test, use them all. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Make sure if you are consistently answering a type of question wrong, you go back and study that section in your study resources. Ensuring you can answer that one specific question correctly likely isn’t going to help you pass the test. You have to know the material through and through. All tests come with some guide on what topics are covered. Make sure you are following that guide and mastering all topics.
Be over prepared
Yes, it takes more time to be over prepared, but if it means you only have to take the exam once, it is time well spent. We believed that if Kira got more than 75% on a practice CLEP or DSST test, she could go in and take the exam. Wrong! We are now aiming for closer to 90% because she didn’t pass multiple tests after only using the 75% mark. It’s better to think you can teach the class because you know the material back and forth than thinking you have a good enough score to pass.
Any time you think you have done good enough to pass, go back and study again. Good enough is never the phrase you want to use before taking a college level exam.
What study habits have you learned through the years?
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