How to Review and How to Take Tests: Return to School IX: Study Skills 4

Returning to School IX

by Owen Fourie

Study Skills: Part Four

How to Review and How to Take Tests

Reviewing is the final and major stage of your studies as you prepare to take tests or examinations.

Previously, you received and assimilated the knowledge that you needed. Preferably, you have made it your practice to learn for life and not merely to pass exams.

Reviewing is not confined to this final phase. It actually begins before this time and immediately you have received the substance of a lesson or a lecture. While you are assimilating what you have received, you are also in the process of reviewing.

How to review

  • Revisit the material, examining it, and studying it again. If you have taken care to make good, clear notes and graphic organizers, your review will be more easily done. Do this daily, weekly, monthly.
  • Build on the preceding material. Revisit the older material to be sure its important points are clear and fixed in your mind. Relate the concepts and understand their interrelatedness. Grasp the comparisons and contrasts, the causes and effects, the pros and cons.
  • Assimilate and review the work of the day, each day; ask questions and get answers; test your ability to recall what you have learned.
  • Review the work of a week, each week, and extend your reviewing to cover the work of previous weeks.
  • Review the work of a month, each month, and extend your reviewing to cover the work of previous months. Such reviewing is the wise alternative to last-minute, frenzied “studying” that crowds your short-term memory with soon-to-be-forgotten facts retained only for the examination and not for life.
  • Write your assigned essays as part of the reviewing process. As you write, incorporate what you have learned. Of course, essays should also extend your knowledge and mastery of a subject through research.
  • Choose the best time of the day or night—the time that suits you—for studying, and keep this time at least five or six days of each week.
  • Have a dedicated place, equipped for studying, where you can focus without distraction.
  • Use the music that you prefer in the background if this helps you to concentrate.
  • Take short breaks. Review for 25 to 30 minutes, break for 5 minutes to get some fresh air, pet the cat, kick feed the dog, and get back to your reviewing for another 25 to 30 minutes before your next short break.

How to take tests

  • Develop a strategy for taking tests.
  • Relax by breathing deeply while waiting for the test paper.
  • Read all the instructions carefully. Use your pen to underline or circle points for quick reference if necessary.
  • Skim through the test paper to anticipate what will be required.
  • Know how much time there will be for the whole test. Do the math to decide how many minutes to give to each question. Give fewer minutes to easy questions, more minutes to more complicated questions that require more information, reasoning, paragraphs.
  • Answer the easiest questions first. It helps to build confidence.
  • Leave sufficient time to answer the more difficult questions.
  • Look for clues in the question paper’s content. Some questions might contain the trigger that you need for an answer to another question.
  • Number your answers clearly. Many examiners do not require you to set out your answers in the same order as the question paper. If you are answering on separate sheets of paper, you can answer the questions in any order, but be sure that the number for your answer matches the number of the question.
  • Read each question carefully. Understand what is being asked by dividing the question into its various parts to know precisely what is required. Asked only to explain the reasons for a certain war being fought, don’t write about the many battles in the war or the war’s outcome.

Equip yourself for life and liberty

In four articles, you have been given a broad overview of what is involved in study skills. It is left to you to work out the finer details and to apply this information practically to your circumstances.

It is easy to become bogged down in too much detail provided in some study skills manuals and to fail to get down to the business of actually studying. The intention here is to give you the bare bones which you can apply as you engage in actual studying.

Applying what you have received in the nine articles of this series, you should find yourself well-equipped to become

  • a self-directed learner, fully able to teach yourself any subject;
  • a master of any subject that you study;
  • a pioneer for freedom and not a slave to the tyranny of any system;
  • a person who goes beyond the limitations of the mundane world.


If you have other practical points for reviewing your study materials and for taking tests, please mention them here. Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.

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