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Test Strategies

The academic season ends with a bang. I finished the second quarter of MBA school last Saturday, by taking both the Economics and Finance finals. It was grueling: The day started with an Econ mini-review at 7:30am, the test itself began at 8:30am and lasted to about 11:30am. Finance began at 1:30pm, and ended at 5pm. At the end, I was exhausted mentally, and (after a long hard run around the neighborhood) physically, too. On the plus side, I think that I did fairly well.

Many people dread final exams, but it may be useful to look at them in a positive light. At Notre Dame, I remember enjoying finals week. There wasnít any set class schedules, so one could get up at any time. People seemed nervous and spent their time studying, which was interesting to observe. For that matter, students were expected to be distracted, which worked out well for me, as I was always that way. I think that I ended up eating better, sleeping better, and exercising more during those weeks than any other week.

Finals are when the rubber meets the road: Did you really pay attention in class? What is really important? Do you have the memory, training, and endurance to sit through a three-plus hour test? It is a challenge, and probably should be approached with an all-encompassing strategy. Let me suggest some tips:

  1. Keep up with the class throughout the period. Go to class. Do the homework. Engage the material, and think about it. If you know the material, you can probably make intelligent guesses on what to study for the final. And you might not need to study long for it, as you already know it. Donít try to learn a semesterís worth of content in a couple of days.
  2. Meet your physical needs. Sometimes, finals may be testing your physical endurance as much as anything else. So, prepare for that by keeping your body in tiptop condition. Eat well. Sleep well. Exercise or do some sort of physical activity, to keep the blood pumping.
  3. Try to enjoy the test. Yes, it sounds weird. But consider this: Professional athletes enjoy playing in the championship game, right? It may be the last time that you have a chance to see what is going on in the head of the professor, who is probably a world-expert in the topic. What does the professor think that you should know, coming out of the class? You will have to focus completely on the problems, which can itself be a joy in itself (a strange and perverse joy, admittedly, much like a drug addiction). Relax, keep a watch on time, and just demonstrate what you know.



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