Test Preparation Strategies
The following strategies help students make the most of their test preparation time. These are in addition to the notetaking, reading, time management, information organization, and memory strategies, which also aid in test preparation. Remember that to be successful on biology tests, you must recall detailed information, not just recognize concepts.
Make a list of what will be covered on the test. Keep the information brief and don't actually fill in the details or answers when writing the study guide. Check off items as they are learned and committed to memory.
An example of a partial study guide is given below:
Work with other students to organize information, to talk through information in order to reinforce comprehension and learning, to process information in a number of ways, and to predict and answer practice questions.
What To Study?
Here is a list of important things to study for science courses (Drewes, 1992). Most apply to biology courses.
Realize that different types of tests require different kinds of preparation. Try to predict and answer questions that could be on the test. Look in the notes to see if you indicated where the instructor stressed a concept, gave any examples, or otherwise hinted the material would make a good test question. Look at the review questions at the end of each chapter in the text book. Review the lab questions. Make up questions using the chapter headings in the text book.
Fill In the Blank Questions
Practice making fill-in's by leaving out the term or key words in the definition of each term, people's names or their contributions, an item from a list, or key characteristics of an item.
The _________ ____________ allows materials to pass in and out of the cell.
The plasma membrane of a cell is made of ____________ and ___________ .
The theory of inheritance of acquired traits was proposed by ______________ .
Darwin's book that details his theory of natural selection is _______________ .
Biological structures (smallest to largest) are cells, tissues, ______ and systems.
The rough endoplasmic reticulum contains ______________ .
If the instructor uses a lot of matching, practice before the test by compiling and answering your own matching questions. Use terms, people, lists, and characteristics.
Predict questions at least 2-3 days before the test. Use the syllabus, study guides, old tests if available, chapter annotations, chapter review questions, chapter headings, class lecture notes, or lab questions. Organize main ideas and supporting details that answer each question into an outline, list, map, hierarchy, matrix, or another format. Study and rehearse the main ideas first, then the supporting ideas. Practice and evaluate again the day before the test.
Examples of essays are:
Identify and describe the major components of Darwin's theory of descent with modification through natural selection.
Explain the process of DNA replication. What are the stages? What is the function?
What are the conditions for Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium? What does it tell us?
How is the process of mitosis different from and similar to the process of meiosis?
Draw and label the parts of an animal cell and a plant cell.
Several test-taking strategies for biology are discussed below.
As soon as you get the test, dump all of the information you think you might forget or confuse while taking the test. On the back of the test, write down numerical data such as percentages and dates, the names of people, figures or drawings, mnemonics you developed to remember information, and organizational schemes you used to learn the material. It is worth the five to ten minutes it takes to dump the information you might forget.
Fill in the Blank Questions
The best clues to the answers for fill-ins are in the context of the questions. Look for clue words that you identified while preparing for the exam. Pay attention to grammatical clues as well. Does your answer "fit" the statement? Is the question looking for a term, key word, name, accomplishment, list item, or characteristic?
Read the directions carefully and then scan both columns. Read the top item in the left column and match it after scanning the entire right column. Continue down the left column and match the ones you're sure are correct. Cross of each letter or number in the right column as it is used, especially if choices are to be used once only. Don't do any guessing until you have answered all the questions you know.
Multiple Choice Questions
Check the directions to see if any questions call for more than one answer. Read the questions first without looking at choices to see if you already have an idea of possible answers. If your guess is not present in the answers, pick the closest response. Eliminate choices that are obviously wrong. Eliminate absolute words such as "always" and "totally." If two answers are alike except for one word, one of them is probably correct. The longer answer is often correct.
Look for clues in other parts of the test. Be aware of syntactical clues such as "a" or "an" before vowels. Beware of the words "and" and "or" because if an answer refers to A and B, both must be appropriate to be correct and if an answer refers to A or B, it can be correct if only one is appropriate.
Apply the true-false technique to select the correct response: mark each response as true or false individually, then choose the true one as the answer. If the question asks which choice is incorrect, pick the false one as the answer. Be wary of questions that ask for the negative component of the answer as this reverses all logic (e.g. "Which of the following is not ..." or "All of the following are ... except").
Be prepared. Read through all the questions, develop a plan and time schedule for completing the questions, and start with the ones you know or the ones worth the most points. Recall main points and details from your notes or practice questions. A good answer includes: a first sentence that restates the question, a list of major ideas to be covered in the essay, a general statement followed by relevant details for each main point, transitions between main points, and a brief concluding statement. Include sketches if appropriate; when using diagrams or figures, be sure to label them clearly and explain their relevance in the answer. Avoid rambling; get to the point. If pressed for time, at least answer questions in outline form. Reread essay as time permits.