10.2 Your Purpose and Past Provide Focus


Building an Effective Study Plan Starts with Preparation

  1. Start with reflecting on your recent test experience
  2. Correct your mistakes and gather information about the next test/quiz
  3. Create a study plan based on the information you get from step 1 and step 2

Learning From Past Tests

Pen and calculator on a page of numbers with check marks.
Photo by Lucia Grzeskiewicz, Pixabay License

While it may seen strange to talk about how to learn from past tests before other topics about tests, it is important that students use test results to their greatest benefit. When students don’t achieve the results on tests and exams that they would like, it is tempting to just try to do better next time and forget about it.

Reviewing your test and examining the questions you got wrong or reading your feedback can help you determine what you need to change – the problem could lay in the way you take tests, study for tests or even how well you read and understand test questions.

Based on your analysis of your test, identify the kind of corrective steps you should take to improve your learning and test performance. Implement those steps as you begin your preparation for your next test. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you are doomed to repeat them; if you don’t learn from your successes, it will be harder to repeat them.

Using Past Tests/Assignments and Feedback to Improve your Future Results – Three Step Process

Step 1: Reflect on your test/quiz/exam/assignment results

  • Review all parts of the feedback you receive – check the rubric and look in your grades for additional comments. What can you learn from the professor’s comments?
  • What questions did you get wrong? What kind of mistakes were they? Do you see a pattern?
  • What questions did you get right? What were your strengths?
  • Now think of the way in which you prepared for the test/exam/assignment. Were you prepared? Did you study the right material or have the right information/skills? What surprised you?
  • Did you read the entire test/assignment before starting? Did your time allocation work well, or were you short of time on certain parts of the exam?

Step 2: Correcting Your Mistakes

The second step in making your results work for you is to correct your wrong answers, gather more information, and fill in any gaps in your knowledge. The last time you wrote the information (when you took the test), you created a link to wrong information in your memory, so that must be corrected.

  • For multiple-choice questions, write out the question stem with the correct answer to form a single correct sentence or phrase.
  • For true-or-false questions, write the full statement if it is true; if it is false, reword it in such a way that it is true (such as by inserting the word “not”). Then write the new statement.
  • For math and science questions involving calculations, redo the entire solution with the calculations written out fully.
  • You need not rewrite an entire essay question if you did not do well, but you should create a new outline for what would be a correct answer. Make sure you incorporate any ideas triggered by your professor’s comments.
  • When you have rewritten all your answers, read them all out loud before incorporating your new answers in your notes.

Mistakes can also happen if you didn’t understand the format of the test and what might be required of you:

By answering the questions below before you start to study, you can apply the right strategy to the test type and your scheduled study time wisely based on the test type and format.

  • What am I being tested on?
  • How much is it worth?
  • What types of questions are on the test/exam?
  • What format is the test?
  • How long do I have and how many attempts do I get?
  • How many questions are on the test?
  • Will the content on this test be included in future tests?
  • Do I need to know this content before I can successfully learn the next part of the course content?

Step 3: Integrating Your Test into Your Study Guide

Your corrected assignments, quizzes, and midterm exams are an important study tool for final exams. Make sure you file them with your notes for the study unit. Take the time to annotate your notes based on what you learned from last time

Review your updated notes, feedback, and annotated quiz/test results throughout the term (not just before the final) to be sure you cement the course material into your memory. When you prepare for the final exam, start by reviewing your quizzes and other tests to predict the kinds of questions the professor may ask on the final. This will help focus your final studying when you have a large amount of coursework to cover.

Exam Errors and How to Correct Them 
Preparation / Content Errors
  • Incorporate weekly review sessions.
  • Practice predicting possible questions.
  • Go to all classes, labs, and review sessions.
Focus Errors or Carelessness During the Test
  • Read the entire test before starting to identify value of questions.
  • Prioritize the questions – what should you answer first?
  • Keep an eye on the time. Keep as close to your plan as possible.
  • Read carefully and think before answering.
  • Check your work.

If You Don’t Get Your Test Back

If your professor chooses not to return tests to students, you can ask for feedback after the test to review it and your performance. Take notes on what you had trouble with and the expected answers. Add these notes into your study guide. Make sure you don’t lose out on the opportunity to learn from your results.

15 Studying” from A Guide for Successful Students by Irene Stewart and Aaron Maisonville is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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Fanshawe SOAR Copyright © 2023 by Kristen Cavanagh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.