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7: Studying, Memory, and Test Taking - Mathematics


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7 Mistakes the Night Before a Big Test You Will Never Make Again

You have studied and reviewed for months now in anticipation of exam day. There are stacks of index cards on your nightstand, notated study guides in your briefcase and over-highlighted textbooks covering your kitchen counter. You are ready, eager and confident, but there is still one more thing left to do - and it may be the most important of all.

Have a plan in place for what to do the night before your test. You want to take your exam feeling refreshed, not burnt out. Regardless of how hard you worked to prepare, simple mistakes the night before a final exam or exam for credit can impact your performance when it truly counts. The wrong activities can leave you anxious and stressed and you may not even realize it.

If you are making any of these mistakes the night before a big test, you have a few changes to make to your plan. Here are seven mistakes that may be influencing your grade much more than you know.


Short Term Memory Test

A short term memory test is very self-explanatory. The user is shown multiple digits of numbers and asked to remember them. Then, the numbers are taken off the screen and the user is asked to type the numbers they remembered in.

This test will become more difficult as more digits are added, and digits are continuously added until the user starts forgetting the digits. According to research, the magic number most people remember is "7 plus or minus 2" items. This means an average short term memory can hold 5 to 9 digits.

Here is the data from the memory test above, with around 5000 results. As you can see, 4 is the most common digit where all the digits are correctly memorized and recalled.

This form of memory usually doesn't last more than 18 seconds, unless rehearsed.


Understand the Test

Ever studied your heart out only to find that you weren’t studying the right material or that you missed a key section? There’s an easy way to prevent this: Ask your teacher for guidance. First, prepare. Outline what you think will be on the test, even if you’re not sure. Review and briefly outline your notes, readings, and homework. Look for a general theme that ties the material together. Show your teacher the outline, explain what you know, and ask if you’ve missed anything.

  • The focus of the exam.
  • If there’s anything not in your outline that you need to study.
  • What you don’t need to study or focus much attention on.
  • The exam format — yes or no, multiple choice, or short-answer questions. If it’s an essay exam, the focus is probably more conceptual. If there’s a fill-in-the-blanks section, you’ll need to memorize dates and terms.
  • Specific terms you need to know. Afterward, verify that the definitions you found are correct.

How can I improve my memory for studying?

Everything takes practice. Many students struggle with remembering facts and material because they simply don’t take the time work their mind on a regular basis. As subjects get harder, they find that their mind is unprepared to tackle the information.

Rather than asking how to memorize faster for exams, students should be learning how to use their memory more effectively while they study.

The answer? Regular study sessions.

The more regularly you review material, the better you can train your mind to remember what you have studied with much more accuracy.

On top of regularly reviewing class material, there are also some memory tricks you can use to help improve your recall for your next test.


1. Be prepared

There is no substitute for preparation. If you haven't studied throughout the semester. If you haven't reviewed prior to test day. If you don't know the test material, all the test taking strategies in the world won't save you. Preparation is key.

  • Spend as many hours as necessary to understand the material that will be covered on the test well enough to achieve a high score.
  • Since teachers often slightly modify information on tests to determine if students have a good understanding of concepts, spend time on honing test-taking skills.

7 thoughts on &ldquo Does Chewing Gum While Studying Help You Remember? &rdquo

Coming from someone who chews gum a lot, it’s cool to know it might actually be helping me do better studying and taking exams. I wonder how/if it affects attentiveness during class, and if it would help you could focus in other aspects of life, like a job interview or during a presentation or something.

Coming from someone who chews gum a lot, it’s cool to know it might actually be helping me do better studying and taking exams. I wonder how/if it affects attentiveness during class, and if it would help you could focus in other aspects of life, like a job interview or during a presentation or something.

I found this really interesting, since in elementary school before the PSSAs, the Principal would walk around to each classroom and hand out mints. We weren’t allowed to chew gum in school, but they said that mints had the same affect. I wonder if mints truly do have the same affect as gum would, or if it doesn’t work as well. I also thought it was frustrating that we could have mints for standardized tests, since the district wanted the scores to be high, but if we tried chewing gum or having mints in our mouths for a test that actually affected our grade, they wouldn’t let us. Hopefully for younger generations, they will see information like this, and allow children to chew gum if it will help improve their test scores!

I was always told it that chewing gum while studying helped you remember more information on a test. Ive tried this theory and it never worked for me. I feel like this a placebo effect and thats why people say it works. As you said research shows thats it does help but only for a short period of time which is not very useful if you have a test 24 hours later. However, I will start chewing gum during test because he wakes your brain up and keeps you awake.

I’ve always wondered if there was any benefit from chewing gum during class or tests. And I am glad to hear that there is! I love to chew gum during classes because it helps me to stay focused and it helps to distract me from being hungry. But if there is research that gum can help improve test scores, should gum be recommended in classrooms? Growing up, many of my teachers banned gum from classrooms. I understand that it can get messy when students put it under desks. But do the positives outweigh the negatives in this situation?


5 Top Reasons Students Lose Points on Math Tests

  1. They didn’t follow directions! This is a big one! Always read the directions.
  2. Sloppy writing. Perhaps you wrote a 𔄡,” but later read the digit as a 𔄜.” That will obviously lead to a mistake. Most commonly, students misalign digits for example, a digit that should be in the tens place gets added to the hundreds column.
  3. They are confused by math vocabulary. If you’re not sure what the difference is between a “sum” and a “product,” you’ll have trouble.
  4. Not doing homework regularly. Homework is your #1 study tool for math!
  5. Making errors on basic math facts. It helps to be fluent with your basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. (NOTE: People with learning disabilities often struggle with “basic” facts. In that case, take your time to calculate facts carefully.)

Simple awareness of these factors can have a positive impact on your grade! But, as you might guess, there is more you can do…


What are important caveats to keep in mind?

Keep it low-stakes.The term “testing” evokes a certain response from most of us: the person being tested is being evaluated on his or her knowledge or understanding of a particular area, and will be judged right or wrong, adequate or inadequate based on the performance given. This implicit definition does not reflect the settings in which the benefits of “test-enhanced learning” have been established. In the experiments done in cognitive science laboratories, the “testing” was simply a learning activity for the students in the language of the classroom, it could be considered a “no-stakes” formative assessment where students could evaluate their memory of a particular subject. In most of the studies from classrooms, the “testing” was either no-stakes recall practice (Larsen et al. 2009 Lyle and Crawford, 2001 Stanger-Hall et al., 2011) or low-stakes quizzes (McDaniel et al., 2012 Orr and Foster, 2013). Thus, the term retrieval practice may be a more accurate description of the activity that promoted students’ learning. Implementing approaches to test-enhanced learning in a class should therefore involve no-stakes or low-stakes scenarios in which students are engaged in a recall activity to promote their learning rather than being repeatedly subjected to high-stakes testing situations.

Share your learning objectives so that students understand their targets. It’s important to note that incorporating testing—or recall practice—as a learning tool in a class should be done in conjunction with other evidence-based teaching practices, such as sharing learning objectives with students, carefully aligning learning objectives with assessments and learning activities, and offering opportunities to practice important skills. If you want students to be able apply their knowledge, analyze complex situations, and synthesize different points of view, be sure to let them know that retrieval practice will help them learn the basic information they need for these skills—but that retrieval alone is not sufficient.


12 Study Skills for Exam Success

The best way to get high grades on an exam is to consider the entire length of your course as a pre-exam, preparation period. Because courses can last a few months to a whole year, you may find it difficult to make the connection between your daily homework, periodic assignments, and your final exam. To get high marks, start by recognizing that all academic work done through the semester, summer, or school year is exam studying.

The strategies below can help you keep pace throughout the year. They will ensure exam success as well as mastery of the subject.

  1. Set your goal: Read the course overview to understand what the course will cover and how it will be scored. Identify your goal in concrete terms and put it in writing to strengthen your resolve.
  2. Manage your time: Time management skills can help you take control of your study workload, achieve more, and stress out less. There are many ways to make time work with you, instead of against you. Purchase an academic diary or study planner. Buy one which provides a week-at-a-glance or a month-at-a-glance view, so you can get a holistic view of the time you have available. Find out assignment due dates and quiz/test/exam dates and mark them in your study planner in advance. This way you’ll be able to avoid social commitments during pre-exam periods. Minimize distractions and keep your priorities straight. Focus on your goal of getting the highest marks possible. Schedule social activities around your study schedule and not vice-versa! Remember this is not only an academic challenge, it’s your job in life right now. Make it a successful and enjoyable year!
  3. Identify your learning style: Take a learning style assessment test and find out if you are a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner. This self-knowledge can help you make more effective use of your time. Remember, your learning style may be quite different from that of family members and friends. Adapting your study method to suit your own natural style will enable you to produce powerful results in less time.

Study Skills Quiz

Complete the following true or false quiz to check how well you absorbed the information above.