• The Southwestern

Exam preparation: Here's what a SWOSU Psychology Prof says

Updated: May 2

With Final Week approaching fast, especially freshmen struggle with the question on how to prepare appropriately in order to get satisfying grades.



A study group in the Al Harris Library.

By Johannes Becht

News Reporter


So far, he did well. He handed in his assignments and completed the quizzes. He attended classes and took notes. But what about the final exams? As Final Week approaches fast, especially freshmen struggle with the question on how to prepare appropriately in order to get satisfying grades – and how to motivate themselves to study.


To answer that question, it is important that students realize the difference between high school and college. At high school, it is about memorizing things and memorizing techniques, but that “doesn’t work at university,” explains Randy Barnett, Associate Dean and Chair of the Psychology Department. “Here you have a much deeper comprehension level.” In other words: Students who did well in high school simply by memorizing everything could see themselves end up getting bad grades.


At this point, it is necessary to change the study technique. A good way to understand the subject is trying to summarize. Barnett: “Take a step back and ask yourself how you would tell it somebody in three sentences.” Thereby, students are also able to see the bigger picture. Another technique is self-questioning, that is, imagining how a possible test and its questions could look like and answering these questions.


SWOSU offers many resources to help students in their effort for academic success. Apart from office hours of the professors, there is Departmental Tutoring and even Online Tutoring. For students struggling with their writing, for example for papers, speeches, or presentations, the Writing Center is located in room B3 in the Al Harris Library, with session hours every day but Saturday.


Using these resources and learning techniques require time and effort. Combined with disinterest for the subject, especially in General Education courses, it not seldom leads to a lack of motivation to study. How to deal with that? “Try to find a way to make the material important in your own way,” advises Barnett. “Say to yourself: How could I use the information for me?” Information from a Math course, for example, could be valuable for a house project.


Another aspect students must realize is that they can do well everywhere. “Many students say, ‘I’m not smart enough’ and tell this to themselves as an excuse to quit,” says Barnett. The reality is different, even the smartest people on Earth had to put a huge amount of time and effort into their subject. But “we don’t want to give people credit for effort, because it makes us feel bad about ourselves,” states Barnett.


Sometimes, there are too many things on a student’s plate, which makes the student focus his energy and time on the most important ones. However, having too many things on the plate can be a self-protecting mechanism. “It offers an excuse to procrastinate,” says Barnett. And procrastinating offers a simple ‘I-had-no-time’ explanation for bad grades.


But also without 100 things going on in life, many students fail to start studying early enough. What to do about that? Barnett: “Skilled people reinforce themselves.” Students should learn how to be systematic and how to reward and punish themselves. “You can train yourself in that way, and it is very easy in the world of technology.” An example: Decades ago, a football game had to be watched when it was broadcasted. Today, it can be recorded and watched later – as a reward.

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