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Unformatted text preview: In this chapter you
will explore Confessions of a COLLEGE STUDENT . . . ‘‘ ’’ DAN BAKER, 19
The University of New Haven prepare for exams in many ways, and certain
methods are more effective than others, depending on the subject matter,
your preferred learning style, and the type of test you’ll be taking. Sometimes
you’ll need to be able to recall names, dates, and other specific bits of information, especially if you are taking a multiple-choice or short-answer exam.
Many instructors, especially in humanities and social science courses such as
literature, history, and political science, will expect you to go beyond names
and dates and have a good conceptual understanding of the subject matter.
They often prefer essay exams that require you to use higher-level critical
thinking skills, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. They expect you
to be able to provide the reasons, arguments, and assumptions on which a
given position is based, and the evidence that you believe confirms or discounts it. They want you to be able to support your opinions so they can see
how you think. They are not looking for answers that merely prove you can
memorize the material presented in lecture and the text. Even in math and
science courses, your instructors want you not only to remember the correct
theory, formula, or equation but also to understand and apply what you have
Knowing your preferred learning style will also help you decide the best
ways for you to study, no matter what kind of text or exam you are facing.
Remember your VARK score, and review the material in Chapter 4 that helps
you link your learning style to strategies for exam preparation. History 111, US History to 1865
Note: In this course, most of your exams will be on Fridays,
except for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the final.
This is to give you a full week to study for the exam and
permit me to grade them over the weekend and return the
exams to you on Monday. I believe in using a variety of
types of measurements. In addition to those scheduled
below, I reserve the right to give you unannounced quizzes
on daily reading assignments. Also, current events are fair
game on any exam! Midterm and final exams will be
cumulative (on all material since beginning of the course).
Other exams cover all classroom material and all readings
covered since the prior exam. The schedule is as follows:
Friday, 9/4: Objective type
Friday, 9/18: Essay type
Friday, 10/16: Midterm: essay and objective
Friday, 10/30: Objective
Friday, 11/13: Open-book type
Wednesday, 11/25: Essay
Tuesday, 12/15: Final exam; essay and objective Believe it or not, you actually begin preparing for a test on the first day of
the term. All of your lecture notes, assigned readings, and homework are
part of that preparation. As the test day nears, you should know how much
additional time you will need for review, what material the test will cover,
and what format the test will take. It is very important to double-check the
exam dates on your syllabi, as in Figure 9.1, and to incorporate these dates
into your overall plans for time management, for example, in your daily and
weekly to-do lists. Here are some specific suggestions to help you prepare well for any
1. Ask your instructor. Find out the purpose, types of questions, conditions
(how much time you will have to complete the exam), and content to be
covered on the exam. Talk with your instructor to clarify any misunderstandings you might have about your reading or lecture notes. Some instructors might let you see copies of old exams so you can see the types of
questions they use. Never miss the last class before an exam, because your
instructor might summarize valuable information.
2. Manage your preparation time wisely. Create a schedule that will give
you time to review effectively for the exam without waiting until the
night before. Make sure your schedule has some flexibility to allow for
unexpected distractions. If you are able to spread your study sessions
over several days, your mind will continue to process the information
between study sessions, which will help you during the test. Also, let your
friends and family know when you have important exams coming up and
how that will affect your time with them.
3. Focus your study. Figure out what you can effectively review that is likely
to be on the exam. Collaborate with other students to share information, and try to attend all test or exam review sessions offered by your
instructor. Maintain your regular sleep routine. To do well on exams, you will need
to be alert so that you can think clearly. And you are more likely to be alert
when you are well rested. Last-minute, late-night cramming that robs you of
sufficient sleep isn’t an effective study strategy.
Follow your regular exercise program. Another way to prepare physically for
exams is by walking, jogging, or engaging in other kinds of physical activity.
Exercise is a positive way to relieve stress and to give yourself a needed break
from long hours of studying.
Eat right. Eat a light breakfast before a morning exam, and avoid greasy
or acidic foods that might upset your stomach. Limit the amount of caffeinated beverages you drink on exam day, because caffeine can make you jittery. Choose fruits, vegetables, and other foods that are high in energy-rich
complex carbohydrates. Avoid eating sweets before an exam. The immediate
energy boost they create can be quickly followed by a loss of energy and
alertness. Ask the instructor whether you may bring a bottle of water with
you to the exam. Know your material. If you have given yourself adequate time to review, you
will enter the classroom confident that you are in control. Study by testing
yourself or quizzing others in a study group or learning community so that
you will be sure you really know the material. Practice relaxing. Some students experience upset stomachs, sweaty palms,
racing hearts, or other unpleasant physical symptoms of test anxiety. Consult
your counseling center about relaxation techniques. Some campus learning
centers also provide workshops on reducing test anxiety. If this is a problem
you experience, read the section on test anxiety later in this chapter.
Use positive self-talk. Instead of telling yourself, “I never do well on math
tests” or “I’ll never be able to learn all the information for my history essay
exam,” make positive statements, such as “I have attended all the lectures,
done my homework, and passed the quizzes. Now I’m ready to pass the test!” Find out about the test. Ask your instructor what format the test will have,
such as essay, multiple-choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, short-answer, or
something else. Ask how long the test will last and how it will be graded. Ask
whether all questions will have the same point value.
Design an exam plan. Use the information about the test as you design a plan
for preparing. Build that preparation into a schedule of review dates. Develop
a to-do list of the major steps you need to take to be ready. Be sure you have
read and learned all the material by one week before the exam. That way,
you will be able to use the final week to review and prepare for the exam.
The week before the exam, set aside a schedule of one-hour blocks of time for
review, and make notes on specifically what you plan to accomplish during
Join a study group. You have seen the suggestion to join or form a study
group in other chapters because this is one of the most effective strategies for
doing well in college, especially in preparing for exams. You can benefit from
different views of your instructors’ goals, objectives, and emphasis; have your
study partners quiz you on facts and concepts; and gain the support and
friendship of others to help sustain your motivation.
Some instructors will provide time in class for the formation of study
groups. Otherwise, ask your teacher, advisor, or campus tutoring or learning center to help you identify interested students and decide on guidelines
for the group. Study groups can meet throughout the term, or they can just
review for midterms or final exams. Group members should complete their
assignments before the group meets and prepare study questions or points
of discussion ahead of time. If your study group decides to meet just before
exams, allow enough time to share notes and ideas. Get a tutor. Most campus tutoring services offer their services for
free. Ask your academic advisor or counselor or campus learning center about arranging for tutoring. Many learning centers
employ student tutors who have done well in the same courses
you are taking. These students might have some good advice on
how to prepare for tests given by particular instructors. Learning
centers often have computer tutorials that can help you refresh
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Carrie:617-5 Math and science exams often require additional preparation
techniques. Here are some suggestions for doing well on these
exams: 1. Do your homework regularly, even if it is not graded, and do all the assigned problems. As you do your homework, write out your work as
carefully and clearly as you will be expected to do on your tests. This
practice will allow you to use your homework as a review for the test.
2. Attend each class, and always be on time. Many instructors use the time
at the beginning of class to review homework.
3. Create a review guide throughout the term. As you begin your homework
each day, write out a random problem from each homework section in a
notebook that you have set up for reviewing material for that course. As
you review later, you will be able to come back to these problems to make
sure you have a representative problem from each section you’ve studied.
4. Throughout the term, keep a list of definitions or important formulas.
(These are great to put on flash cards.) Review one or two of these as
part of every study session. Another technique is to post the formulas and
definitions in prominent areas in your living space (e.g., on the bathroom
wall, around your computer work area, or on the door of the microwave).
Seeing this information frequently will help embed it in your mind. Throughout your college career you will take tests in many different formats,
in many subject areas, and with many different types of questions. The following box offers test-taking tips that apply to any test situation. Many college instructors have a strong preference for essay
exams for a simple reason: Essay exams promote higher-order
critical thinking, whereas other types of exams tend to be exercises in memorization. Generally, advanced courses are more
likely to include essay exams. To be successful on essay exams, follow these guidelines:
1. Budget your exam time. Quickly survey the entire exam,
and note the questions that are the easiest for you, along
with their point values. Take a moment to weigh their values, estimate the
approximate time you should allot to each question, and write the time
beside each item number. Be sure you know whether you must answer all
the questions or choose among questions. Remember, writing profusely
on easy questions that have low value can be a costly error because it
takes up precious time you might need for more important questions.
Wear a watch so you can monitor your time, and include time at the end
for a quick review.
2. Develop a very brief outline of your answer before you begin to write.
Start working on the questions that are easiest for you, and jot down a
few ideas before you begin to write. First, make sure that your outline
responds to all parts of the question. Then use your first paragraph to introduce the main points and subsequent
paragraphs to describe each point in more depth.
If you begin to lose your concentration, you will
be glad to have the outline to help you regain
your focus. If you find that you are running out
of time and cannot complete an essay, provide an
outline of key ideas at the very least. Instructors
usually assign points on the basis of your coverage of the main topics from the material. Thus
you will usually earn more points by responding
briefly to all parts of the question than by addressing just one aspect of the question in detail.
An outline will often earn you partial credit even
if you leave the essay unfinished.
3. Write concise, organized answers. Many wellprepared students write good answers to questions
that were not asked because they did not read a
question carefully or didn’t respond to all parts of
the question. Other students hastily write down
everything they know on a topic. Instructors will
give lower grades for answers that are vague and
tend to ramble or for articulate answers that don’t
address the actual question.
4. Know the key task words in essay questions. Being familiar with the key
task word in an essay question will help you answer it more specifically.
The key task words in Table 9.1 appear frequently on essay tests. Take
time to learn them so that you can answer essay questions as accurately
and precisely as possible. Preparing for multiple-choice tests requires you to actively review all of the
material that has been covered in the course. Reciting from flash cards, summary sheets, mind maps, or the recall column in your lecture notes is a good
way to review these large amounts of material.
Take advantage of the many cues that multiple-choice questions contain. Careful reading of each item might uncover the correct answer. Always
question choices that use absolute words such as always, never, and only.
These choices are often (but not always) incorrect. Also, read carefully for
terms such as not, except, and but, which are introduced before the choices.
Often, the answer that is the most inclusive is correct. Generally, options
that do not agree grammatically with the first part of the item are incorrect. For instance, what answers could you rule out in the example in
Some students are easily confused by multiple-choice answers that sound
alike. The best way to respond to a multiple-choice question is to read the
first part of the item and then predict your own answer before reading the
options. Choose the letter that corresponds to the option that best matches
your prediction. Jack Brown
Examination 1 1. Margaret Mead was a(n):
d. astronomer If you are totally confused by a question, place a checkmark in the margin, leave it, and come back later, but always double-check that you are
filling in the answer for the right question. Sometimes another question will
provide a clue for a question you are unsure about. If you have absolutely no
idea, look for an answer that at least contains some shred of information. If
there is no penalty for guessing, fill in an answer for every question, even if it
is just a guess. If there is a penalty for guessing, don’t just choose an answer
at random; leaving the answer blank might be a wiser choice. In many ways preparing for fill-in-the-blank questions is similar to getting
ready for multiple-choice items, but fill-in-the-blank questions can be harder
because you do not have a choice of possible answers right in front of you.
Not all fill-in-the-blank questions are constructed the same. Some teachers
will provide a series of blanks to give you a clue about the number of words
in the answer, but if just one long blank is provided, you can’t assume that
the answer is just one word. If possible, ask the teacher whether the answer is
supposed to be a single word per blank or can be a longer phrase. Remember that for a statement to be true, every detail of the sentence must
be true. Questions containing words such as always, never, and only tend
to be false, whereas less definite terms such as often and frequently suggest
the statement might be true. Read through the entire exam to see whether
information in one question will help you answer another. Do not begin to
second-guess what you know or doubt your answers just because a sequence
of questions appears to be all true or all false. The matching question is the hardest type of question to answer by guessing.
In one column you will find the terms, and in the other you will find their
descriptions. Before answering any question, review all of the terms and
descriptions. Then match the terms you are sure of. As you do so, cross out
both the term and its description, and use the process of elimination to assist
you in answering the remaining items. To prepare for matching questions,
try using flash cards and lists that you create from the recall column in your
notes. While you are in college, you will encounter many types of tests. Some tend
to be used in particular disciplines; others can be used in any class you might
take. In the physical and biological sciences, mathematics, engineering, statistics,
and symbolic logic, some tests will require you to solve problems showing all
steps. Even if you know a shortcut, it is important to document how you got
from step A to step B. On other tests, all that will matter will be whether you
have the correct solution to the problem, but doing all the steps will still help
ensure that you get the right answer. For these tests, you must also be very
careful that you have made no errors in your scientific notation. A misplaced
sign, parenthesis, bracket, or exponent can make all the difference.
If you are allowed to use a calculator during the exam, it is important to
check that your input is accurate. The calculator does what you tell it to, and
if you miss a zero or a negative sign, the calculator will not give you the correct answer to the problem.
Be sure that you read all directions carefully. Are you required to reduce
the answer to simplest terms? Are you supposed to graph the solution? Be
careful when canceling terms, cross-multiplying, distributing terms, and combining fractions. Whenever possible, after you complete the problem, work it
in reverse to check your solution, or plug your solution back into the equation and make sure it adds up. Also check to be sure that your solution makes
sense. You can’t have negative bushels of apples, for example, or a fraction
of a person, or a correlation less than negative 1 or greater than 1. Write out
each step clearly, with everything lined up as the instructor has indicated in
class (lining up the equal signs with each other, for example). It is important that you carefully follow the directions for machine-scored tests.
In addition to your name, be sure to provide all the necessary information on
the answer sheet, such as the instructor’s name, the number for the class section, or your student ID number. Each time you fill in an answer, make sure
that the number on the answer sheet corresponds to the number of the item
on the test. If you have questions that you want to come back to (if you are
allowed to do so), mark them on the test rather than on the answer sheet. Although scoring machines have become more sophisticated over time,
stray marks on your answer sheet can still be misread and throw off the scoring. When a machine-scored test is returned to you, check your answer sheet
against the scoring key, if one is provided, to make sure that you receive
credit for all the questions you answered correctly. Your comfort with taking computerized tests might depend on how computer
literate you are in general for objective tests as well as your keyboarding skills
for essay exams. If your instructor provides the opportunity for practice tests,
be sure to take advantage of this chance to get a better sense of how the tests
will be structured. There can be significant variations depending on the kind
of test, the academic subject, and whether the test was constructed by the
teacher or by a textbook company or by another source.
For multiple-choice and other objective forms of computerized tests, you
might be allowed to scroll down and back through the entire test, but this is
not always the case. Sometimes you are allowed to see only one question at a
time, and after you complete that question, you might not be allowed to go
back to it. In this situation you cannot skip questions that are hard and come
back to them later, so be sure that you try to answer every question.
For computerized tests in math and other subjects that require you to
solve each problem, record an answer and then move to the next problem. Be
sure to check each answer before you submit it. Also, know in advance what
materials you are allowed to have on hand, including a calculator and scratch
paper for working the problems. In many science courses and in some other academic disciplines, you will be
required to take lab tests during which you rotate from one lab station to
the next and solve problems, identify parts of models or specimens, explain
chemical reactions, and complete other tasks similar to those that you have
been performing in lab. At some colleges and universities, lab tests are now
administered at computer terminals via simulations. To prepare for lab tests,
always attend lab, take good notes, including diagrams and other visual representations as necessary, and be sure to study your lab notebook carefully
before the test. If possible, create your own diagrams or models, and then see
whether you can label them without looking at your book.
You might also have lab tests in foreign language courses. These tests
can include both oral and written components. Work with a partner or study
group to prepare for oral exams. Ask each other questions that require using
key vocabulary words. Try taping your answers to work on your pronunciation. You might also have computerized lab tests that require you to identify
syllables or words and indicate the order and direction of the strokes required
to create them, particularly in a foreign language that uses a different symbol
system, such as Chinese. The best way to prepare for these tests is to learn the
meanings and parts of the symbols and regularly practice writing them. If you never had open-book or open-note tests in high school, you might be
tempted to study less thoroughly, thinking that you will have access to all the
information you need during the test. This is a common misjudgment on the
part of first-year students. Open-book and open-note tests are usually harder
than other exams, not easier.
Most students don’t really have time to spend looking things up during
an open-book exam. The best way to prepare is to begin the same way you
would study for a test in which you cannot refer to your notes or text. But
as you do so, develop a list of topics and the page numbers where they are
covered in your text. You might want to use the same strategy in organizing
your lecture notes. Number the pages in your notebook. Later, type a threecolumn grid (or use an Excel spreadsheet) with your list of topics in alphabetical order in the first column and corresponding pages from your textbook
and notebook in the second and third columns so that you can refer to them
quickly if necessary. Or you might want to stick colored tabs onto your textbook or notebook pages for different topics. But whatever you do, study as
completely as you would for any other test, and do not be fooled into thinking that you don’t need to know the material thoroughly. Wired WINDOW During the test, monitor your time carefully. Don’t waste time unnecessarily looking up information in your text or notes to double-check yourself
if you are reasonably confident of your answers. Instead, wait until you have
finished the test, and then, if you have extra time, go back and look up answers and make any necessary changes. But if you have really studied, you
probably will not find this necessary.
Sometimes the only reason a teacher allows open books or open notes is
for students to properly reference their sources when responding to essay or
short-answer tests. Make sure to clarify whether you are expected to document your answers and provide a reference or works cited list. Like open-book and open-note tests, take-home tests are usually more difficult than in-class tests. Many take-home tests are essay tests, though some
teachers will give take-home objective tests. Be sure to allow plenty of time to
complete a take-home test. Read the directions and questions as soon as you
receive the test to help you gauge how much time you will need. If the test
is all essays, consider how much time you might allocate to writing several
papers of the same length. Remember that your teacher will expect your essay answers to look more like assigned out-of-class papers than like the essays you would write during an in-class test.
Unfortunately, issues of academic honesty can arise for take-home tests.
If you are accustomed to working with a study group or in a learning community for the course, check with the teacher in advance to determine the extent to which collaboration is allowed on the test. One thing that can be very
confusing for students is to be encouraged to work together throughout the
academic term and then to be told that there should be no communication
outside of class about a take-home test. Test anxiety takes many different forms. Part of combating test anxiety is understanding its sources and identifying its symptoms. Whatever the source, be
assured that test anxiety is common.
Test anxiety has many sources. It can be the result of the pressure that
students put on themselves to succeed. Without any pressure, students would
not be motivated to study; some stress connected with taking exams is natural and can enhance performance. However, when students put too much
pressure on themselves or set unrealistic goals, the result is stress that is no
longer motivating, only debilitating.
The expectations of parents, a spouse, friends, and other people who are
close to you can also induce test anxiety. Sometimes, for example, students
who are the first in their families to attend college bear the weight of generations before them who have not had this opportunity. The pressure can be
Finally, some test anxiety is caused by lack of preparation—by not keeping up with assigned reading, homework, and other academic commitments
leading up to the test. Procrastination can begin a downward spiral because
after you do poorly on the first test in a course, there is even more pressure
to do well on subsequent tests to pull up your course grade. This situation
becomes even more dire if the units of the course build on one another, as in
math and foreign languages, or if the final exam is cumulative. While you are
having to master the new material after the test, you are still trying to catch
up on the old material as well.
Some test anxiety comes from a negative prior experience. Transcending
the memory of negative past experiences can be a challenge. But remember
that the past is not the present. Perhaps there are good reasons why you
performed poorly in the past. You might not have prepared for the test, you
might not have read the questions carefully, or you might not have studied
with other students or sought prior assistance from your professor or a tutor.
If you carefully follow the strategies in this chapter, you are very likely to do
well on all your tests. Remember that a little anxiety is okay. But if you find
that anxiety is getting in the way of your performance on tests and exams, be
sure to seek help from your campus counseling center. Students who experience test anxiety under some circumstances don’t necessarily feel it in all testing situations. For example, you might do fine on
classroom tests but feel anxious during standardized examinations such as
the SAT and ACT. One reason standardized tests are so anxiety provoking
is the notion that they determine your future. Believing that the stakes are
so high can create unbearable pressure. One way of dealing with this type of
test anxiety is to ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Remember
that no matter what the result, it is not the end of the world. How you do on
standardized tests might limit some of your options, but going into these tests with a negative attitude will certainly not improve your chances. Attending
preparation workshops and taking practice exams not only can better prepare you for standardized tests, but also can assist you in overcoming your
anxiety. And remember that many standardized tests can be taken again at
a later time, giving you the opportunity to prepare better and pull up your
Some students are anxious only about some types of classroom tests.
Practice always helps in overcoming test anxiety; if you fear essay exams, try
predicting exam questions and writing sample essays as a means of reducing
Some students have difficulty taking tests at a computer terminal. Some
of this anxiety might be related to lack of computer experience. On the other
hand, not all computerized tests are user-friendly. You might be allowed to
see only one item at a time. Often, you do not have the option of going back
and checking over all your answers before submitting them. In preparation
for computerized tests, ask the instructor questions about how the test will be
structured. Also, make sure you take any opportunities to take practice tests
at a learning center or lab.
Test anxiety can often be subject-specific. For example, some students
have math test anxiety. It is important to distinguish between anxiety that
arises from the subject matter itself and more generalized test anxiety. Perhaps
subject-specific test anxiety relates to old beliefs about yourself, such as “I’m
no good at math” or “I can’t write well.” Now is the time to try some positive self-talk and realize that by preparing well, you can be successful even in
your hardest courses. If the problem persists, talk to someone in your campus
counseling center to develop strategies to overcome irrational fears that can
prevent you from doing your best. Test anxiety can manifest itself in many ways. Some students feel it on the
very first day of class. Other students begin showing symptoms of test anxiety when it’s time to start studying for a test. Others do not get nervous until
the night before the test or the morning of an exam day. And some students
experience symptoms only while they are actually taking a test.
Symptoms of test anxiety can include butterflies in the stomach, queasiness or nausea, severe headaches, a faster heartbeat, hyperventilating, shaking,
sweating, or muscle cramps. During the exam itself, students who are overcome with test anxiety can experience the sensation of “going blank,” that is,
being unable to remember what they actually know. At this point, students
can undermine both their emotional and academic preparation for the test
and convince themselves that they cannot succeed.
Test anxiety can impede the success of any college student, no matter
how intelligent, motivated, and prepared. That is why it is critical to seek
help from your college or university’s counseling service or another professional if you think that you have significant test anxiety. If you are not
sure where to go for help, ask your advisor, but seek help promptly! If your
symptoms are so severe that you become physically ill (with migraine headaches, hyperventilating, or vomiting), you should also consult your physician or campus health service. In addition to studying, eating right, and getting plenty of sleep, there are a number of
simple strategies you can use to overcome the
physical and emotional impact of test anxiety.
First, any time that you begin to feel nervous
or upset, take a long, deep breath and slowly
exhale to restore your breathing to a normal
level. This is the quickest and easiest relaxation device, and no one even needs to know
that you are doing it.
Before you go into the test room, especially before a multiple-hour final
exam or before sitting through several exams on the same day, it can help to
stretch your muscles just as you would when preparing to exercise. Stretch
your calf and hamstring muscles, and roll your ankles. Stretch your arms, and
roll your shoulders. Tilt your head to the right, front, and left to stretch your
When you sit down to take the test, pay attention to the way you are sitting. Sit with your shoulders back and relaxed, rather than shrugged forward,
and put your feet flat on the floor. Smooth out your facial muscles rather
than wrinkling your forehead or frowning. Resist the temptation to clutch
your pencil or pen tightly in your fist; take a break and stretch your fingers
now and then.
Anxiety-reducing techniques that might be available through your campus counseling center include systematic desensitization, progressive muscle
relaxation, and visualization. One of the most popular techniques is creating
your own peaceful scene and mentally taking yourself there when you need to
relax. Try to use all five senses to recreate your peaceful scene in your mind:
What would you see, hear, feel, taste, or smell?
These strategies can assist you in relaxing physically, but meanwhile, you
must also pay attention to the mental messages that you are sending yourself. Focus on the positive! If you are telling yourself that you are not smart
enough, that you did not study the right material, or that you are going to
fail, you need to turn those messages around with a technique called cognitive restructuring. We all talk to ourselves, so make sure that your messages
are encouraging rather than stress provoking. When you are studying, practice sending yourself positive messages: I really know this stuff. I am going to
ace this test!
Similarly, do not allow others, including classmates, your spouse, parents,
or friends, to undermine your confidence. If you belong to a study group, discuss the need to stay positive. Sometimes, getting to the test room early will expose you to other students who are asking questions or making comments that
are only going to make you nervous. Get to the building early, but wait until
just a few minutes before the exam begins to approach the classroom itself. If
at any point during a test you begin to feel like you cannot think clearly, or
you have trouble remembering or you come to a question you cannot answer,
stop for a brief moment, and take another long, deep breath and slowly exhale.
Then remind yourself of the positive self-messages you have been practicing. Students react differently when they receive their test grades and papers. For
some students the thought of seeing the actual graded test produces high
levels of anxiety. But unless you look at the instructor’s comments and your
answers (the correct and incorrect ones), you will have no way to evaluate
your own knowledge and test-taking strengths. You might also find that the
instructor made an error in the grade that might have cost you a point or
two. Be sure to let the instructor know if you find an error.
It is important that you review your graded test. You might find that
your mistakes were caused by failing to follow directions, being careless with
words or numbers, or overanalyzing a multiple-choice question. If you have
any questions about your grade, be sure to talk to the instructor. You might
be able to negotiate a few points in your favor, but in any case, you will let
your instructor know that you are concerned and want to learn how to do
better on graded tests and examinations. Imagine what our world would be like if researchers reported fraudulent
results that were then used to develop new machines or medical treatments
or to build bridges, airplanes, or subway systems. Integrity is a cornerstone
of higher education, and activities that compromise that integrity damage
everyone: your country, your community, your college or university, your
classmates, and yourself. Institutions vary widely in how they define broad terms such as “lying” or
“cheating.” One university defines cheating as “intentionally using or attempting
to use unauthorized materials, information, notes, study aids, or other devices
. . . [including] unauthorized communication of information during an academic exercise.” This would apply to looking over a classmate’s shoulder for
an answer, using a calculator when it is not authorized, obtaining or discussing
an exam (or individual questions from an exam) without permission, copying
someone else’s lab notes, purchasing term papers over the Internet, watching
the video instead of reading the book, and duplicating computer files. Plagiarism, or taking another person’s ideas or work and presenting them as
your own, is especially intolerable in academic culture. Just as taking someone
else’s property constitutes physical theft, taking credit for someone else’s ideas
constitutes intellectual theft. On most tests, you don’t have to credit specific sources. (But some instructors do require this. When in doubt, ask!) In written reports and papers,
however, you must give credit any time you use (a) another person’s actual
words, (b) another person’s ideas or theories—even if you don’t quote them
directly, or (c) any other information that is not considered common knowledge.
Many schools prohibit certain activities in addition to lying, cheating, unauthorized assistance, and plagiarism. Some examples of prohibited behaviors
are intentionally inventing information or results, earning credit more than
once for the same piece of academic work without permission, giving your
work or exam answers to another student to copy during the actual exam or
before that exam is given to another section, and bribing in exchange for any
kind of academic advantage. Most schools also outlaw helping or attempting
to help another student commit a dishonest act. Although you might see some students who seem to be getting away with
cheating or plagiarizing, the consequences of such behaviors can be severe and
life-changing. Recent cases of cheating on examinations and plagiarizing major papers have caused some college students to be suspended or expelled and
even to have their college degrees revoked. Writers and journalists whose plagiarism has been discovered, such as Jayson Blair, formerly of the New York
Times, and Stephen Glass, formerly of the New Republic, have lost their jobs
and their journalistic careers. Even college presidents have occasionally been
found guilty of “borrowing” the words of others and using them as their own
in speeches and written documents. Such discoveries result not only in embarrassment and shame, but also in lawsuits and criminal actions.
Because plagiarism can be a problem on college campuses, faculty members are now using electronic systems such as www.turnitin.com to identify
passages in student papers that have been plagiarized. Many instructors routinely check their students’ papers to make sure that the writing is original. So
even though the temptation to cheat or plagiarize might be strong, the chance
of possibly getting a better grade isn’t worth misrepresenting yourself or your
knowledge and suffering the potential consequences. To avoid becoming intentionally or unintentionally involved in academic misconduct, consider the reasons why it could happen:
Ignorance. In a survey at the University of South Carolina, 20 percent of
students incorrectly thought that buying a term paper wasn’t cheating.
Forty percent thought using a test file (a collection of actual tests from
previous terms) was fair behavior. Sixty percent thought it was acceptable
to get answers from someone who had taken the exam earlier in the same
or in a prior term. What do you think?
Cultural and campus differences. In other countries and on some U.S.
campuses, students are encouraged to review past exams as practice exercises. Some student government associations maintain test files for use
by students. Some campuses permit sharing answers and information for
homework and other assignments with friends. Make sure you know the
policy on your specific campus. Different policies among instructors. Because there is no universal code
that dictates such behaviors, ask your instructors for clarification. When
a student is caught violating the academic code of a particular school or
instructor, pleading ignorance of the rules is a weak defense.
A belief that grades are all that matter. This might reflect our society’s
competitive atmosphere. It also might be the result of pressure from parents, peers, or teachers. In truth, grades are nothing if one has cheated
to earn them. Even if your grades help you get a job, it is what you have
actually learned that will help you keep the job and be promoted. If you
haven’t learned what you need to know, you won’t be ready to work in
your chosen field.
Lack of preparation or inability to manage time and activities. If you are
tempted to cheat because you are unprepared, ask an instructor to extend
a deadline so that a project can be done well.
The following box outlines some steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of problems: Where to go FOR HELP . . . Chapter REVIEW . . .
One-Minute PAPER . . . Applying What You’ve LEARNED. . . Building Your PORTFOLIO. . . ‘‘
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This note was uploaded on 05/02/2010 for the course US/101 AAGI0NMRC4 taught by Professor Kathybaucum during the Spring '10 term at University of Phoenix.
- Spring '10