How to Pass a Written Exam

Written exams make up the majority of your exams in college, which in turn make up the majority of your grade point average. Your performance on written exams will be directly reflected in your grades.

Basically, they’re a pretty big deal.

How to Improve Your Performance on a Written Exam

There are two skills you must master in order to improve your performance on a written exam:

Time management


Both are essential skills that will not only give you a better chance of doing well on an exam, but they will also improve your academic performance overall.

Time Management

When taking a written exam, first allocate enough time for you to complete all the questions. Briefly review the test to determine the number of questions and how long each of them should take.

Reviewing the test in advance gives you the option to determine which questions you know well, and which questions will require more effort.

There are three categories by which you can divide the sets of questions during an exam but even though this takes time the end result is usually worth it. The three categories include –

  • Questions you know well (easy questions)
  • Questions you know better (moderately hard)
  • Questions you know nothing about (hard questions)

Always answer the questions in order of difficulty, not necessarily the order that they are in on the test.

Avoid leaving questions blank. An incomplete or incorrect answer will always be better than no answer at all.


The power of deduction is especially useful for moderate or difficult questions. Most people refer to this as an “educated guess,” because you use your education and contextual clues to determine the most likely answer.

Deduction is a powerful skill that can be practiced. Once you’ve answered all the easy and moderate questions, you can potentially use those answers to deduce the more difficult questions.

Being Productive While Commuting

The average college student spends roughly 30 minutes each day just walking on campus. Double that for students who live off-campus and have to walk, ride, or drive a greater distance.

Just because that time is short, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything with it

Being Productive While Commuting

  1. Listen to audiobooks, podcasts and class recordings – It has been proven that listening can significantly improve your knowledge base. It helps you discover the things you might have missed before.
  2. Practice with flashcards – Flash cards are easy to read and it doesn’t even take 30 minutes to cover everything. If you don’t want to carry flashcards with you, you can download an app for your phone.
  3. Prioritize your day– Whether you use a paper planner or your phone’s calendar app, take a few minutes of your commute to organize your day.
  4. Proofread your papers – You can scan your papers and check for grammatical, spelling and sentence construction errors.
  5. Scan class notes – Reading while you are on the move is a big no-no, so scan the highlights or even listen to lectures you have recorded on your phone.
  6. Return calls, texts, and emails – If you’re like the rest of us, you’re probably awful at returning messages from people. Make it a daily priority during your commute to actually connect with people.

Your commute is also a good opportunity to focus on your personal growth. Use this time to practice breathing techniques and meditation as well!


Ergonomic Tips For Laptop Users

While laptops give us convenience in many ways, they also place us at risk for injuries. Because the laptop and screen are attached, it can cause both neck and wrist pain.

Ergonomic Risks from Laptops

  • Awkward wrist position
  • Pressure on the carpal tunnel
  • Flexed neck
  • Rounded shoulder

Ergonomic Tips for Laptop Users

  • Work on a table that is appropriate for your height
  • Sit close to the table on a comfortable chair
  • Bend your head as little as possible
  • Make sure your ears are directly above your shoulders
  • If you intend to use your laptop for long periods of time, it is best to get separate monitor, mouse and keyboard to decrease the risk for injuries
  • Have a laptop stand or alternatively use books underneath the laptop
  • Do not rest for your hands on the laptop surface while typing and make use of a 3-ring binder under the laptop. This decreases the risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Make sure your elbows are not bent more than 90 degrees and this is best achieved by getting a high-enough chair
  • Reduce strain on your back by making sure you have footrest if your chair is high.

There will never be a true ergonomic position when using laptops thus it is still important to take a break and change position often.

How to Succeed In College

College is the turning point in the life of most students. But, achieving academic success in college is also a struggle for most. How do other students manage to achieve their goals?

The key to success is simple: do your work. Study hard, learn the material, and do your homework.

Selecting the Best Place to Study

The most convenient way to study isn’t always the best choice. Most students choose to study in their rooms, but that is a haven of distractions. Between Netflix and to friends, having a good study session in your room is unlikely. Studying in your dorm room is bad , but studying on your bed is even worse.

The first thing that you need to do is to find yourself a study place. It should be a place that will promote learning, productivity, efficiency and concentration. It should be the place where you spend your time studying, and only studying. Some people like the library, others like a quiet café, it’s up to you.

Experiment on what works for you. Make a set of criteria like the level of noise, availability, cleanliness and accessibility.

Developing Study Skills

Once you have found the perfect place to study, you need to get started on developing your study skills.

  •    Break subject matters into manageable chunks
  •    Use your free time during daytime to study
  •    Spend more time on difficult classes
  •    Review notes, ask questions and discuss things with peers

All of these are the basic skills you need to work on. You will achieve academic success in no time if you follow them religiously.

Academic Success

  • Study your lessons at least 3 days prior to your major exam for around 2-3 hours a day.
  • Don’t study the night before you take the exam. Instead, you should go to bed earlier and get plenty of rest.
  • Get to school early. Aim to be seated for your exam at least 10 minutes before it begins. This will help minimize text anxiety.
  • Make sure you read instructions well and follow them strictly.
  • Scan the entire paper before you answer any question to have enough time. This will allow you to keep track of time, instead of running out.
  • Always check the back of each page for questions you might not otherwise notice.
  • If you are answering essay questions, it is important that you state your complete answer. You need to read the question properly and answer it completely.

Tips to Improve Your Study Habits

Studying is one of those things like cleaning the gutters; you do it because you benefit even though you’d rather be doing anything else. Here are some tips to improve your study habits.


When studying, the easiest way that you can hurdle formulas, definitions and other concepts that need to be memorized is through mnemonics. It is the most common study skill among college students. Check out this website for more tips on mnemonics.


Making an outline of what you are supposed to study will help you study quickly. The main advantage of reading and writing is you will memorize the key concepts quicker. If you need some help with creating a successful outline, view this post.


Most course books include test exercises and mock quizzes, or you could make one for yourself. The idea here is so that you can gauge how much you have already studied.


Breaks allow your body to recuperate and your brain to digest the information you have studied. Have you heard of saturation? This happens when no matter how hard you try to retain the information you are studying you can’t. You need to take a short break in between study period to allow memory retention.

Top 5 Flashcard Apps

Flashcards can be a very helpful tool, especially in classes where you need to memorize. Vocabulary, dates, number, formulas. It’s all easier to remember with flashcards. Here are some alternatives to regular paper flashcards.

Cram, formerly Flashcard Exchange, is a web and mobile tool that gives you access to over 195 million flashcards, with hundreds of thousands added each week. If you don’t want to use the existing cards, you can always create your own set!

Flashcard Machine is a great way to create, study and share flashcards online. With free registration, you can create unlimited flashcards and share them with others (even non-registered users). You can separate flashcards into multiple subjects and groups and include images and audio.

Brainscape is strictly for flashcards. You can make your own, or use the ones already created by other students. You can make flashcards through a web browser and sync them with the app across all of your devices. They claim to use decades of cognitive science research to help you study more efficiently.

Flashcards+ by Chegg, yes, that Chegg. The same company that introduced us to renting, buying, and selling textbooks online has expanded their resources to include a pretty great flashcard app. You can create your own cards, or download decks created by other students.

Quizlet is a two-for-one deal. You can use their mobile app for their easy-to-use flashcards feature or check out their website for the full range of options. In addition to flashcards, they also have interactive diagrams and a new app called Quizlet Learn that allows you to customize your studying based on what you need to know and how soon you need to learn it. Beware: not all features are available on the free version.

Cramming 101

At some point during college you’ll be cramming for a test. It’s not the best way to study, but everyone does it eventually. If you must cram for a test, do it the right way.

Here are some tips to get you through your first cram session.

Cramming 101

1. Figure out what you need to know.

This is the most important step. Don’t try to force feed your brain information that isn’t important. If you have a hard time figuring out what your professor will test over, ask someone or go through the book. Most chapters have key facts, a summary, etc. that outlines the most important things.

2. Give yourself enough time.

Cramming works best the night before, but with a good amount of sleep. A foggy brain doesn’t recall well. Plan enough time to cram and enough time to get a decent sleep. Difficult subjects require more cram time.

3. Mood matters.

The Association for Psychological Science says that a good mood allows your brain to think more creatively. Study somewhere free from distractions and irritations, and listen to mood-boosting music.

4. Have a plan.

Before you cram, have a plan. Focus on the cramming the details that you struggle with the most. Do you mostly need to learn vocab? Do you need to learn theories? Do you need to know formulas? Devote the most time to the most important parts.

Cramming Tips


For classes where you need to regurgitate definitions, try creating a matching test at Easy Test Maker. It’s free and is easier and cheaper than flashcards. There’s also flashcard software available if you’d rather do that. Either way, this is a great way to memorize.

Multiple Choice

Most professors have two very possible, one could-be and one completely off choices on multiple choice. By the time you’re in college, you should be very familiar with this format and very good at taking them. So, study important facts, but focus on details. Anything bolded or reiterated in lecture and anything that might be related.


If your professor provides possible essay prompts, take advantage and get all the information you’ll need. Write a short, practice essay outline. Use that to study ahead of time.

If you’re not lucky enough to be given the question ahead of time, you’re in for more work. Learn the big picture and a few things to fill in the lines. Once you have that down, bullshit is your best friend. Don’t make things up, just surround your facts with fluff.

How to Be a Productive Reader

Reading is an essential skill in college, but it’s one that most students detest. The average student spends 15 hours a week reading and studying for their classes. If you’re not a productive reader, that number is probably much higher. Make sure you’re getting the most out of your reading by following these tips.

How to Be a Productive Reader

1. Don’t tackle too much at once.

If you’re assigned a five chapter chunk for homework, work on one chapter at a time. This doesn’t make the challenge seem endless. Also, don’t procrastinate, I know it’s hard, but if you start early and have time for breaks (a few minutes to an hour to a day), then it’s much easier.

2. Read once for main points.

Skim through the reading, get all the main points, headers, bold words, everything that sticks out.

3. Take good notes.

Write down the big picture using an outline, a mind map, or other note-taking style that works for you.

4. Read once more for details.

Once you have your notes on the important ideas, go back through and see if there’s any details you missed. Dates, names, places; stuff that your professor might ask, but isn’t necessarily what you’d call “important.” This is more for history, political science, and psychology classes. When you’re getting into physics or the like, this isn’t as important.

5. Study your notes.

Now that you’ve got your great notes, don’t look at the book again. If you’ve gotten the important info out of it, you don’t need it anymore.

What are your top reading tips? How much time do you spend studying each week?

8 Ways to Improve Your Memory

College students have about a million things going on at any given time. When you’re that busy, it’s easy to forget things. Unfortunately, what’s forgotten is usually important and course-related. If you’re looking to improve your memory and your academic success, keep on reading.

8 Ways to Improve Your Memory

1. Be flexible.

Experiment with what helps you remember, whether it’s a mnemonic device or color coding your notes. Studies show that chewing gum, listening to classical music, or burning candles all have a positive impact on memory. Find what works for you.

2. Overlearn.

Practice and reorganize what you intend to remember in as many ways as possible. Use it while speaking and writing, even act it out. The more time you spend, the more it’s ingrained.

3. Imitate.

Schedule study time to reflect the time of day when you’ll be using the material.

  •       Make study time the same as test time.
  •       Create a similar environment.
  •       Study without music if the room will be quiet.
  •       Study at a desk instead of on your bed.

4. Rephrase and explain.

Try role-playing. Take the view of the teacher and explain the material to someone else, your dog, or a stuffed animal. Teaching the material requires a higher level of comprehension and an ability to highlight the most important facts.

5. Eliminate accidental and unrelated associations.

A study situation where a phone rings constantly produces breaks in the association process. If you’re singing along to Eric Clapton throughout your study session, you will relate the material to Eric Clapton. This is only helpful if your topic is indeed Eric Clapton.

6. Eliminate previous mistakes.

Take note of any previous mistakes you’ve made while studying and make a conscious effort to avoid them.

7. Decide on order of importance.

Some things are more important than others. Decide on the big picture and organize everything else around that.

8. Become emotionally involved.

This doesn’t always work with schoolwork, especially if you don’t care about a particular subject. But notice how you remember things you care about. If you can somehow relate the topic to something you care about, you’ll remember it better.

Bonus Tip:

Put your phone away! There is a strong correlation between cell phones and lower test scores. Splitting your attention between your material and your phone is going to lower your recollection and increase your study time.

How to create a successful outline

Few people know how to create a successful outline, and that amazes me.

The first step is to understand the material you’re reading. If you’re simply taking chunks of the chapter, you’re not going to get anywhere. There are two different outlines: research outlines and chapter outlines. I’ll cover both here.

Research outline

Every good research paper should start with a great outline. A great outline serves as the skeleton for your entire paper.

Once you’ve figured out your topic and the general direction of your paper, creating an outline is straightforward. You must thoroughly understand your thesis before completing the outline. If you’re confused or stuck on a thesis, don’t worry about it until the end. Start with the information.

Once you’ve gathered your research, you generally know the idea of what you want to talk about first. If you’re completely lost, choose the idea that would be a great opener – something that’s controversial, interesting or your audience would agree with. To choose what’s next in line, ask yourself, “After idea A, what is an easy transition?” If you’re going from dogs to VCRs, there’s probably not going to be an easy connection. Transitions between different sections can be made very simple if you choose topics that seem to flow well together. Also remember that nothing is set in stone. If later you realize you should have put topic B where topic F is, change it.

Because this article is so long, I’m going to cut it off here and allow you to view the rest of entry if you choose to do so. (more…)

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