When students take the time to study for their examinations, they’re working to increase the likelihood of performing successfully on the test. However, if they’re using effective study skills, they’ll also reinforce what they’ve learned and perhaps develop a deeper level of understanding of the course material. In addition, they’ll also reduce their test anxiety as they become more confident in their knowledge and skills.

As with any endeavor, practice is one effective means of increasing one’s proficiency and knowledge at test time. You may already provide students with practice questions, but if you don’t, you can encourage your students to work together and create their own practice exams.

With this activity adapted from an exercise in the Instructor’s Resource Manual for Dr. Christine Harrington’s Student Success in College: Doing What Works!, students have the opportunity to practice for their examinations by crafting the types of questions that they anticipate may be on the exam. As they work, students will not only will they review the material you present in your class, they’ll also think critically and creatively about course concepts. Furthermore, students can use this activity as a means of assessing their own level of learning; depending on how they fare, they may be motivated to better prepare themselves for the upcoming examination.

This activity could be used in class; or, if you choose not to devote class time to this topic, you can suggest that students get together in groups and adopt this practice as a study strategy.

  1. Ask students how they typically prepare themselves for examinations. During this discussion, students will learn from one another; perhaps they’ll hear of new study strategies that they hadn’t tried before.
  2. Then, direct students to write a number of potential test questions based on assigned readings and lecture notes. (For an in-class activity, Harrington suggests two multiple-choice questions and two essay questions per student, but this number can be increased if students are working in smaller study groups.)
  3. Aggregate the questions and create a practice test. Recommend that students apply successful test-taking strategies as they work through the questions.
  4. After completing this practice test, students should review their answers, then regroup to discuss their experiences and identify additional study and test-taking strategies that could help them increase their success on the actual examination. (56)

Reference: Harrington, Christine. 2013. Instructor’s Resource Manual for Student Success in College: Doing What Works! A Research-Focused Approach. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.


Do you have a test-preparation strategy that you recommend to your students? Share your suggestions in the comments!