What It's Like To Take Your First College Test

By Nayra Mendoza on January 25, 2016

One word: prepare.

Seriously. You could’ve been the valedictorian of your high school class, and you still wouldn’t be ready for the amount of realness you’re going to be asked on that exam. Most people are disappointed with their grade even though they didn’t open a book or look over notes. Others study but are completely thrown off guard by the material.

Either way, you’ll quickly realize that college exams are nothing like high school tests. Here are some pointers on what your first college test will be like.

1. Your reading could have saved you.

Via (slowrobot.com)

You have assigned reading for a reason. Your professor didn’t make you buy a textbook and let it sit at your desk with no purpose other than to hurt your bank account. Your lectures, homework, and exam grades all ride on the simple task of reading.

Instead of rushing to your room after class to catch up on the next Netflix episode, skim through the chapter and highlight what interested you about the reading. You’ll be able to input your thoughts during the discussion and impress your professor.

2. Did you talk in class?

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Giving your opinion and asking questions is probably the easiest thing you can do. Professors like students that speak up and discuss. It’s a high school “teacher’s pet” move, but it’s a smart move in college. Other students might have similar thoughts and questions; they’ll even appreciate that you took one for the team and spoke first.

Easier said than done, of course. The intimidation of talking in a room full of strangers is real, but so is not knowing the answer to the question. If you really aren’t comfortable with speaking up in class, write down any questions and email your professor or stop by to discuss during their office hours. Your effort outside of class may even be rewarded with a few extra points on your grade.

3. Don’t go out. 

First College Test

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Learn from my mistakes, y’all. Do not, under any circumstance, go out before a test. A no-brainer, huh?

Well, yours truly was obviously not prepared for college. I’d just moved to a new city for college, I went out and had dinner with a cousin. That turned into a night of bars and clubs, naturally. Next thing I knew, I was crashed out on her couch with no way of getting back to campus. Luckily, I have the best friend you can make in college who picked my hungover ass up and took me back to my dorm room.

I then had the genius idea of checking my planner and realized my first midterm exam of my college life was in 15 minutes. It didn’t matter that I’d taken the fastest shower in recorded history and Usain Bolted to my class because I was two minutes late and my professor had locked the doors. I made the lesser known walk of shame to my room.

The story has a happy ending, however, because my professor offered the class a recovery exam to replace the lowest test grade. Still, I was traumatized about the whole thing that I didn’t go out again for three months. To this day, I make it a point to check my agenda before I even think about going out.

4. Layouts matter.

First College Test

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How you’re getting tested is important to know, too.

Depending on your class material, your professor may give you questions in essay or multiple choice format. Your professor may assign a day to review in the syllabus. If you don’t pay attention at any other point in the semester, please pay attention to this one given day as a one-time refresher on what will be on your first college test.

If the exam is in essay format, your professor will want to know what you took away from class discussions and topics. Formulate a study guide with opinionated answers and write down anything you can remember or research on.

If the exam is in multiple-choice format, you’ll probably want to use note cards as your study guide. Write down definitions, important names and dates, key facts, and topic summaries. If you can connect descriptions to words, you’ll have an easier time taking your test.

5. Grading styles help.

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Curves, in all sense of the word, are my favorite.

Professors know that college students are not prepared for college-level work. Don’t feel bad about how badly it went because they may pity you and add points to your grade. Although this may not seem fair to the ones who studied intensely, their grade will just get better so it’s a win-win for everyone.

6. Incentives work.

First College Test

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If having good grades isn’t important enough to you, remember that there’s ice cream in the freezer waiting for you after that one hour of hell.

It helps, I promise. Your rewards after having survived your first exam will be much sweeter. Obviously, you could just collect your prize now and go to your exam with a happy belly, but the psychology of setting a reward and earning it is much more satisfying.

Your first exam is not just your first exam — it’s a holistic preview of the semester. If you fail because you don’t study, I don’t have to tell you what happened there. If you prepare for the worst, you’ll have a better chance of acing your first college test. May the odds be ever in your favor, friends.

Nayra Mendoza is a junior majoring in International Relations - Business and minoring in Journalism at St. Edward's University. She enjoys meeting new people, learning random facts, and occasionally discloses about her lack of sleep although she gets plenty. Currently, she is trying to accomplish a book bucket list, daydreams about travelling to pretty beaches untouched by tourism, and always owns 3 pairs of earbuds. She interned for Uplifted, a marketing and web development company, prior to writing for Uloop.

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