Prepare for timed assessments
What is a timed assessment?
Timed assessments at Monash can take a range of forms including quizzes, take home exams and timed exams. One thing they all have in common is that they require you to do more than just remember information. You'll have to demonstrate a mastery of the material you've studied, showing that you:
- understand key concepts from the unit
- can analyse and evaluate these concepts, and
- can apply your knowledge to new or ‘real world’ scenarios.
5 tips for preparing for timed assessments View
1. Focus on learning rather than memorisation. You are far more likely to need to demonstrate your learning rather than your ability to memorise, as learning is evidence that you are ready for the next steps in your life, whether related to future study or your career.
2. Preparation for timed assessments should begin from week one, not at the end of the teaching period. Make your note-making and revision a regular part of your routine.
3. Get adequate rest, exercise and fuel from healthy food while you study, and especially before timed assessments. Your brain is as much a part of your body as your muscles, and each requires the best quality rest, training and fuel.
4. Time is of the essence! If you find yourself regularly running out of time during timed practice activities in class or during study, improve your time and task management skills. You will find that better time management will make things easier not only when preparing for timed assessments but in all your studies.
|5. Take an active approach to your study material by testing yourself, engaging with practice materials provided, ‘chunking’ the content and ‘gamifying’ the topics you need to master (e.g. ‘quiz’ your classmate about a topic and have them quiz you about another). Reading and re-reading your notes and staring at your screen are examples of a passive approach that will not result in learning.|
Relying on last-minute cramming for timed assessments will almost certainly lead to disappointing results. Here are some strategies that can help you prepare for your timed assessments throughout entire teaching periods, as well as during the last weeks leading up to them.
The learning objectives can be found in the unit information. They will usually specify what you need to know, and what you need to be able to do, to pass the unit.
Use these learning objectives (sometimes referred to as ‘learning outcomes’) as large ‘chunks’ or structural building blocks to guide you in determining what kind of learning the timed assessment will be testing. Consider making each one a large heading to categorise your notes, if that helps.
Summarising the key points for each topic in your units is a great revision strategy. Review your lecture notes and class readings, reflect on class discussions, and ask the following questions: What were the key concepts and ideas? What were the main take away messages? How do they connect to the concepts and ideas discussed in other weeks?
Schedule a regular time each week to create these topic summaries and revise what you've covered in the unit so far. This will help you keep on top of revision and result in a much less stressful exam period. These summaries could also form the basis of testing materials to use with the study groups you form.
Regular revision will help you retain information and improve your understanding. To improve your assessment performance, start your preparation from the beginning of week 1 of semester. After all, the content covered from that moment is all assessable. The outcome of this should be regularly updated notes that can form the basis of your final revision before the assessment.
Your lecturer or unit coordinator might release sample questions, or even an entire practice assessment. This will give you insights into how the assessment might look. Check Moodle or ask your Chief Examiner to see if these are available.
If you have access to a sample assessment, try to do it yourself first without referring to the sample answers (if available). Cross checking between the sample questions and answers can be a useful exercise, but this alone won’t give you an opportunity to gauge and practise how well you can write your responses in an assessment situation.
It would also be a good idea to attempt the questions under time restrictions and without access to your notes or the internet.
You can deepen your understanding and make your study more interesting by turning unit topics into questions.
Select a topic, and think about different types of questions you can ask yourself about it:
- Questions that test your understanding of terms and concepts: e.g. What is … evolution? photosynthesis? … the Weber thesis? … behavioural management theory? … syzygy? … the third law of thermodynamics? … cosmopolitanism?
- Questions that test your understanding of how things are constructed, work or behave: e.g. How does evolution or the Weber thesis work? What are the stages of photosynthesis and what cell structures and compounds are involved? What are the components of behavioural management theory?
- Big-picture questions that test your understanding of how things interact in the broader context. This is where you can really challenge yourself and see how you can apply your knowledge in ways that address big issues: e.g. In what way is the theory of evolution a more effective way of understanding life-forms than creationism? How does behavioural management theory compare with Fordism? What factors predict resistance to cosmopolitan values?
You will learn much more by studying with others. Consider organising a study group with friends from your class or course, then meeting up at a regular time each week in person or online.
There are various locations on campus suitable for group study, for example each Library branch has group study rooms available, and most have large screens you can use with your laptops, as well as whiteboards. Check this link for information about booking a room for group study.
You can also form virtual study groups, using the video conferencing software. You can learn more about how this works in the Using Teams for study groups guide.
Some techniques you could use might be to assign subtopics or unit learning objectives to a team member, who ‘reteaches’ the content and learning to the group. Another could be to test each other’s knowledge or ability to apply the learning.
Unless specifically advised not to, it’s your choice whether to print out your notes, write them out by hand, have them on your laptop, or use a combination. Whatever you do, have a system to find key terms or sections quickly. For example, highlight headings in your handwritten notes, use sticky notes or tabs to identify important sections. For typed notes, use the Control+F or Command+F to search for keywords that you have used to tag your notes.
Visit the electronic exams page to learn more about eExams at Monash.