This week is finals week at Butler University and many other universities. The image above was shared on Facebook by Butler University Libraries. I remember one day as an undergraduate student when I had studied all I could, and would be taking a big exam the next day. I watched a James Bond movie, just to relax. Sometimes, assuming one has really prepared and knows the material, taking a break and relaxing can be a good thing. It is when “finals week” unintentionally and unexpectedly becomes “Netflix” that there is a problem.
I approached final exams very differently than most students today seem to, but I don’t think that is a difference between then and now, but between a majority and minority of students then and now. I didn’t keep reviewing course notes or the same books over and over. I read voraciously. I sought new perspectives on subjects, new monographs, new articles with interesting things to say. Reading each one reinforced what I had already learned, and also added to it.Perhaps this was because I knew that, in the fields I was studying, there was no one “right answer” I was supposed to give, and no one question, worded in a recognizable way, that could be anticipated. I knew I had to have the resources with which to answer unforeseen questions related to the areas I had been studying. I also knew that there would be multiple questions and I would be able to choose from among them, and so it didn’t make sense to be broad and shallow. Some breadth was needed, but this approach (typical in the UK) not only allowed but encouraged exploring depth and detail as well.
How did/do you study for exams? How has the way you approach(ed) exams affected your recall in the short and long term? How do different approaches to the asking of questions influence the ways students prepare to answer questions on exams?