Test Success Without the Stress

by Carrie Lynn

Horizon Reporter

We have all witnessed, with painful jealousy, the classmate to our right somehow legibly printing out perfect numerals and bullets on their notebook paper during the class lecture.  With the occasional shy question of, “how did you spell ‘denouement’ in his fifth point?” we were really longing for the sly opportunity to have the student-scribe scoot their notebook a little closer so we could hurriedly copy down their miraculous work.   In the end our confidence going into the next test was falsely heightened due to some useless memorization of words we didn’t even write.   Yes, we have all been there in that state of panic.

            Good note-taking and studying devices like mnemonics and flash cards are some of the best places to start when trying to eliminate frantic studying before a big test. 

            Whatcom Community College’s learning center resources recommends the Cornell Method for note-taking which may be our brightest beacon of hope yet.

            Desirae Stoh, 19, first used this method in a math class at a different college and was surprised at the difference it made in her studying.  “It is easy because you can go back to it and use it to study,” she said.  “It is really helpful.”

            Scribbling down what your teacher is saying in perfect quotations, every sentence and every second is near impossible.  The Cornell Method of note-taking recognizes the fact that in some classes all you can do is write down the random ideas making sense to you in a limited amount of time.  This method suggests dividing each paper into 3 different parts: the note-taking area, the cue column, and the space for summary. 

            The note-taking area is used to record the lecture as fully as possible during class.  Random or whatever style is easiest to jot down the teacher’s points and details, it will be proven helpful later. 

            The Cue Column is left empty during the lecture.  Soon after class ends, this column is made to record and reduce the note-taking column into key words and points made.

            The bottom third of the page is set aside to summarize each page of notes.  A sentence or two is all that is needed.

            When study time comes along, students can literally cover the note-taking area with another piece of paper and use the cue column as a prompt to describe the ideas detailed.  Doing this quickly for just 10 minutes each day creates a strong memory of what has been learned.

            Another common cause for study-stress is determining how to remember everything.    Mnemonics is a helpful strategy, such as a rhyming or an acronym, that is used for such a time.

            When needing to remember hierarchal materials that require recalling definitions or descriptions of a term, mnemonics help our human brain to file away many lists of information for a long time.  For example, a mnemonic for astronomy students learning the order of the planets would be, “Mary Very Easily Makes Jam Saturday Unless No Plums.” (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)

            Manjit Singh, a student at Whatcom, is taking Chemistry 121, which involves a lot of studying and memorization.  She said she makes colored notecards and reads the chapters over and over again. 

            “Notecards work and knowing definitions, basically it’s a lot of repetition,” Singh said.  Right before she goes to sleep she goes over her notecards every night so she remembers them when she wakes up.  “Thirty minutes each day and it builds up,” she said.

             Quietness is the key to focusing for her in a place with limited distractions.  As a result, her prime study area is her bedroom.  “Numbers come to me easily but when there are lots of words I get confused,” Singh said.  So in chemistry she also does the study guides her teacher posts online the week before the test to help her understand the concepts.

             It seems that consistent habits can make it or break it when truly learning materials for a  test.

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