Hi, I’m Dr. Stephen Chew. I’m a professor of psychology here at Samford
University in Birmingham, Alabama. This is the last in a series of videos on
how to study effectively in college. In this video, we take on a situation that
most students face at one point in their college careers. They take an exam and make a terrible grade. For many students, it is the lowest grade
they’ve ever made. Alright, so you’ve blown an exam. You want to do things that will help you improve
your situation and avoid doing things that will make the situation worse. The two worst things you can do is panic or
go into denial. In my general psychology class, it isn’t
unusual for a quarter to a third of the class to make D’s and F’s on the first exam. But, that exam is worth less than 20% of the
final grade, and I offer ways to raise a low exam score. With over 80% of the grade still out and with
ways to minimize the low score, students have an excellent chance of raising their grade
in the course as long as they take positive steps right away. Denial is not one of those positive steps. I have students who fail three exams and they
come and talk to me and ask me what they can do to raise their grade. That late in the semester there are very few
options. So it is very important that you take positive
steps right way. So what are the positive steps to take? It is critical that you try to identify what
went wrong with your preparation on the exam. First, be honest with yourself. How thorough was your preparation? Did you commit sufficient time for both study
and adequate review? Did you go to class and pay attention? Did you do the assigned work? I have students who come and talk to me and
who act as if there is some magic shortcut which will allow them not to do all the work
but still make a passing grade. They say things like, “Well, I haven’t
been doing the reading, but I have been coming to class.” Now, I know there are classes where, perhaps,
you can read the textbook and not go to class and still pass, or you can come to class and
not read the textbook and still pass. But you are much better off in over-preparing
for the first exam and then streamlining later for the later exam than you are in under-preparing
for the first exam and starting out in a hole. The next thing you should do is review your
exam to see what you missed, and then discuss your situation with your professor. It isn’t fun to review an exam you did poorly
on, but you need to use it to help diagnose what went wrong and how to change for the
next exam. Were your mistakes spread out across topics
or were they focused on one particular topic? If your mistakes were spread out across topics,
that means that you need a comprehensive improvement of your study strategies. If they are focused on one particular topic,
then you need to try and understand why that topic gave you particular difficulty. Did you follow instructions? Did you misinterpret questions? If you misinterpreted questions, then perhaps
you need to discuss with your instructor how to follow the instructions or how to interpret
the instructions correctly. Also, look at your errors, and see if you
had recorded the information needed to answer the question correctly in your notes. If you did not have the key information in
your notes, then you need to improve your note-taking. If you didn’t have the information highlighted
in your text, you need to improve your reading. The key point here is that you have to study,
take notes, and read at the level of detail and understanding that your teacher expects. After reviewing your exam, go discuss how
you prepared and what you discovered from reviewing your exam with your teacher. Most faculty want to see their students learn
and succeed. The key, though, is that faculty are most
willing to help students who are taking steps to help themselves, like reviewing their exams
and being open to different ways of studying. It’s the struggling students who don’t
come to see us who are most likely to fail. Faculty are not your enemy. Next, you need to examine your study strategies
to see if they are effective or not. If you haven’t viewed the earlier videos
in this series, you should do so. Poor study strategies are often appealing
because they are easy and mindless to do, like skimming over your notes without really
thinking about them. Or reading over a text quickly without really
trying to comprehend it, or studying with friends when it really isn’t studying. Bad study habits can also be effortful to
do, but they don’t require deep processing, like recopying your notes without really thinking
about them or organizing them. Good study strategies are effortful and they
require you to process information deeply and meaningfully. Think about what your study strategies are
making you do and use the principles of deep processing to evaluate whether your study
strategies are effective or ineffective. Note that ineffective and effective strategies
can be superficially similar. So for example, mindlessly recopying your
notes is a bad study strategy, but actively organizing and thinking about the connections
within your notes is an effective study strategy. Finally, come up with a plan for better preparation
and study to improve your scores. Here are some basic strategies you can use
to help raise your grade. Commit the time and effort required to develop
and use effective study strategies, Minimize distractions, Attend class, Set realistic
study goals. Space out study time; avoid cramming, and
maximize review time Don’t start letting some classes or assignments slide to try to
catch up with others. This is a dangerous practice. Students start skipping one class or letting
assignments slide to give themselves extra time on another. You can easily end up in trouble in both classes. You need to figure out a way to do the best
you can in all your classes. Don’t give away points. A lot of times I will see struggling students
give away points by failing to follow directions or skipping certain assignments. On a writing assignment, for example, students
may be required to have a cover sheet on their paper. Some students fail to have that cover sheet
and they lose points because of failure to follow instructions. Or on a discussion assignment, students may
be required to post comments to a discussion board, but some students will fail to do so
because it is only 5% of their grade. But failing to do so, giving away those points,
makes it that much harder for them to make a good grade. 5% is half a letter grade. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked
with many students who have blown the first exam. Here is a list of things NOT to do. Don’t be the students that…Keep studying
the same way and hoping for improvement, or Waits until the end of the semester to seek
help, Starts skipping some classes or assignments to focus on other classes or assignments,
Falls farther and farther behind waiting to find time to catch up, Crams at the last minute
to read the material, Doesn’t do assignments because they are late or only worth a few
points, Panics and gives up. Ok, so you blew an exam. Put yourself in the best possible position
to improve our score. Diagnose your problems, come up with a workable
plan, and set realistic goals. If you have poor study habits, take immediate
steps to improve your study skills. Remember, this will take a sustained effort
on your part, because not only are you developing more effective study skills, you have to overcome
entrenched, ineffective study skills. This will take multiple attempts on your part
to find the best study strategies for you and there may be setbacks along the way. But, once you develop effective, automatic
study strategies, then they will give you an edge in any learning situation.