If you’re new to the quarter system, you may be surprised that you are already approaching your first midterm exams. Some of you may even have some this week!

There are many ways to study for exams. If you already have a system that works for you, that’s fantastic! If you’re interested in some new ideas and tips, read on and we’ll walk you through some recommendations.

1. Review your syllabus for exam dates, proctoring requirements, points awarded (what percentage of your class grade) and format (essay, multiple choice, etc.). If you are unclear on any of these, reach out to your instructor or TA for clarification early. You’ll want to make sure they have enough time to respond, and you still have time to take action based on what you hear back.

2. Develop a study plan for each exam. Determine what resources you’ll need, many many days/weeks you have to prepare, and about how much additional time you’ll need to plan for on top of weekly course requirements to fit in exam preparation.  Check out the exam preparation worksheet and the 7 day study plan for some ideas on engaging with this process.

* if you are using a proctor, make sure you know when to be at the location, how to get there, where to park, where the building is located, what materials you can bring, etc.

3. Engage with the material in active and variable ways. This is an important part of the memory and recall process. While reading and reviewing notes is important, incorporating additional methods will help with retaining the information. You can create your own study guide or outline if one isn’t provided, create and use note cards, complete the practice questions in your textbook, and/or teach someone else about what you are learning. Review the Active Studying worksheet for some ideas.

4. Organize a study group. Although you might not be in the same town as your classmates, study groups are still an option! If you haven’t yet, check out the student page on Google Apps for OSU (Links to an external site.). Google Hangouts (Links to an external site.) is a great option for holding virtual study sessions, and all students can log in with their ONID email. Need some ideas on how to make the most of a study group? Take some tips from the Academic Success Center on How to Conduct a Successful Study Group.

5. Take care of yourself! Managing stress, getting enough sleep, and other self-care items go a long way in exam performance. Pulling an “all-nighter” isn’t likely to improve your test scores, and isn’t recommended. Check out our Ecampus Student Success blog post on Beating the stresses of exams.

The video below take a more thorough look at test preparation, and discusses some ideas for incorporating exam review into your daily study habits as an ongoing process.

If you have an exam in the next day or two that you’re feeling unprepared for, read over some recommendations for Emergency Studying (Links to an external site.). Do your best, and think about how you can take a more proactive approach for your next exam.


Don’t miss out on this chance to chat with OSU participants from all around the world! Share your experiences, exchange career tips and build your professional network — all online, from any device.

Our online, cloud-based platform makes it easy and fun for you to participate. After signing in from your home, office, smartphone or tablet, you’ll participate in 1-on-1 chats with other attendees. The chats are text-based and timed, allowing you to quickly meet new people, exchange contact information, and walk away with several new connections you didn’t have before. Each chat is saved, making it simple to look back at your history, review your notes, gather contact information and follow up.

Here are some ideas on how to get the conversation started:

  • What suggestions do you have to improve my civilian resume?:
  • What do you do professionally?
  • What suggestions do you have for civilian success?
  • Can I ask for your advice on ____?
  • If you could do one thing differently in your career, what would it be?

Don’t wait, register now to attend!

January 26, 2017 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM Pacific Standard Time (PST)


Bradley Fuster, special assistant to the provost for innovative learning at SUNY Buffalo State, recently contributed an article to US News & World Report discussing the proper etiquette when talking with instructors online. Although there are numerous situations when you would communicate with an instructor online, these are just a handful of possible scenarios.


• Ask questions, but make sure they are good, thoughtful questions: Questions about subject content are generally welcomed. Before asking questions about the course design, scour the syllabus and learning management system information to be sure the answer isn’t hiding in plain sight.

• Participate in discussion forums, blogs and other open-ended forums for dialogue: That’s what they are for. Be sure to stay on topic online-successand not digress into irrelevant personal stories, offer too much information or use the class as your own personal soapbox or diary. Make a point, and make it safe for others to do the same.

• Be polite: The rules of common courtesy certainly extend to online courses, but remember that online professors get a lot of emails, so there is no need to send an email just to say “thanks.”

• Use an online instructor as a reference: Be sure to ask professors for permission to list them as a reference, and find out what contact information they prefer. If a letter of recommendation is being requested, be sure to provide the professor with all of the details, a resume and at least one month of lead time prior to the deadline.


• Send a friend request to your professor on social media: It puts the professor in an awkward position and can disrupt a healthy student-teacher barrier.

• Share personal information, stories, or life drama: If assignments are missed or you are in need of a deadline extension, simply explain the situation to the professor. If more detail or documentation is needed, they will ask. Professors are not trained counselors, nurses, financial aid experts, dating gurus or BFFs.

 • Openly vent frustrations about a professor or class: Everyone has taken a not-so-great class at one time or another. When students take to social media and blast professors, the language used ultimately says more about the student. If there is truly a concern about a professor’s professionalism or ability, be sure to use online course evaluations to calmly and articulately offer feedback. If the course concerns are so immediate and significant that they can’t wait, contact a department chair or dean and make an appointment to express concern.

• Use emoticons, tell jokes or use sarcasm in writing or email communication: Keep writing scholarly, professional and topical. Sarcasm rarely translates to the written word, and it’s difficult for a professor to infer tone of voice from writing.

When communicating with your instructor online be sure to be timely, topical, professional and kind.

As you begin preparing for FINALS WEEK, here are some tips and tricks that will make your studying more effective.  BuzzFeed Staff, Australia has compiled a list of ways to best utilize your time while preparing for final exams. Good luck!

Keep a big bottle or jug of water by your table.

Keep a big bottle or jug of water by your table.

If you only have a glass of water, you’ll find yourself taking a heap of breaks to refill your glass. If you have the water with you, you’ll be more focused.

Try turning your phone on airplane mode.

.Try turning your phone on airplane mode.

Michelle Rennex / BuzzFeed

As notifications pop up on your phone, you stop studying to read them. Eight hours later, you’re deep into your Instagram feed with zero work done. So just pop it on airplane mode for a while to keep you distraction-free.

Create a guide of what to study and when.

Create a guide of what to study and when.
@universitymotivation / Via instagram.com

Planners are a good way to map out which subjects you should study and for how long. Planning it out helps you not feel too overwhelmed by everything you need to do.

Stick important bits of information you need to remember in places that you look at often.

Stick important bits of information you need to remember in places that you look at often.
@journeytomedschool / Via instagram.com

Put up need-to-know information like formulas, dates, and legislation on walls that you find yourself looking at all the time. Stick the notes in places you frequent often, like your bedroom and bathroom, to force yourself to read them.

Use different colored highlighters, but only to highlight the important things.

Use different coloured highlighters, but only to highlight the important things.
@studysmart_ / Via instagram.com

Different colors for different themes and ideas will help you remember things at first glance when you go to revise them. Also highlighting as little as possible means you’re most likely to retain the most important information.

Reward yourself after certain periods of studying.

Reward yourself after certain periods of studying.
@catalinacaring / Via instagram.com

Maybe it’s a cube of chocolate after reading every three paragraphs, or perhaps an episode of your favorite show after two hours of studying. Either way, giving yourself something to work towards will make you more motivated to get there.

Use Post-It notes to jot down information you’re having a tough time remembering.

Use Post-It notes to jot down information you're having a tough time remembering.
@studyisa / Via instagram.com

If you write down the information and stick it somewhere you always see, you’ll start consuming it more. The more you consume it, the more likely you’ll be to remember it.

Or place your concise study notes up on your desk wall at eye level.

Or place your concise study notes up on your desk wall at eye level.
@medicineandchill / Via instagram.com

Having your notes at eye level works because you end up looking at them when you don’t even realize. You’re more likely to retain information that you see every day.

Schedule a solid block of sleep in your study plans.

Schedule a solid block of sleep in your study plans.
@slipsilkpillowcase / Via instagram.com

While the concept of an all-nighter may seem appealing, the more tired you are the worse your memory will be. Aim for a good eight hours to ensure that your body is well-rested and your mind is alert.

Where possible, try to handwrite your notes.

Where possible, try to handwrite your notes.
@blossom_letters / Via instagram.com

Handwriting your notes helps you remember what you’re writing as you do them. If writing out chunks of text isn’t your style, try writing out flash cards and using them to study.

But if you are typing instead of writing out your notes, use the font Times New Roman.

But if you are typing instead of writing out your notes, use the font Times New Roman.
@megaprintmakers / Via instagram.com

Although Times New Roman is pretty close to Comic Sans on the levels of “bad to look at fonts”, it is one of the fastest fonts to read.

Don’t listen to music you know and love.

Don't listen to music you know and love.
@selinersss / Via instagram.com

If you love a song, chances are you know all the lyrics and subconsciously you’re thinking about the next lyric before it even plays. Try instrumental music, or songs you don’t often listen to, to help clear your mind.

And never feel guilty for taking a break.

And never feel guilty for taking a break.
@bookloverbutslowreader / Via instagram.com

You can’t be switched on all the time. You need to give your brain a break and a little time to wind down. Don’t overexert yourself!

Source: https://www.buzzfeed.com/michellerennex/study-af?utm_term=.gvg6BXQpPd#.ppow41r2jY

Looking to find a way to relax and recharge? Here are a collection of apps from the OSU-Cascades Student Success Center to help.

iPhone Apps: Meditation/Relaxation/Mindfulness

  • Bloom – Reminders to make healthy choices, stay connected with others, manage stress, strengthen your spirit, save money, advance your career, and enhance your creativity.
  • Breathe2Relax – Breathe2Relax is a portable stress management tool which provides detailed information on the effects of stress on the body and instructions and practice exercises to help users learn the stress management skill called diaphragmatic breathing
  • Daily Body Scan – This is a stand-alone iPod ready audio track featuring expert contributor Stephen Cope from Wild Divine the makers of Relaxing Rhythms
  • Equanimity – App times mediation and provides mindfulness practice sessions.
  • Fluid Monkey – Relax as you enjoy interacting with incredibly smooth and responsive pools of liquid. Use all ten fingers to smear paint, jiggle gelatin, or fling brightly-colored balls through puddles of mud
  • iQuarium – Chill out while watching your Parrot Cichlid fish swimming in its tank, feed it, play with it, interact with it
  • Panic Attack Aid – Contains tools for breathing, explanation of physical symptoms, and distraction exercises
  • Relax Melodies – white noise ambience for sleep, meditation & yoga
  • Simply Being Guided Meditation – Voice guided step-by-step instructions for meditation and relaxation
  • Simply Yoga – Contains 20, 40, or 60 minute yoga routines that step you through each pose. Each pose is demonstrated by a certified personal trainer, simply choose your workout length and follow along in the comfort of your own home
  • Sleep Machine – Ambient noise application
  • Transform Your Life: A Year of Awareness Practice by Cheri Huber – inspirational quotes, encouragement, and daily assignments supporting awareness practice focused on compassionate self-acceptance

Android Apps: Meditation/Relaxation/Mindfulness

  • Breathe2Relax – Diaphragmatic breathing application
  • Buddhist Meditation Trainer – Personal trainer for relaxing and enlightening meditation. It features 10 levels of enlightenment with deeper quotes to meditate on in every level, all with a simple to use meditation timer.
  • Calming Music to Tranquilize – Calming Music to Tranquilize is a light music collection providing relaxing experiences through the balance and harmony in the Chinese Tai Chi way of meditation.
  • Daily Body Scan – This is a stand-alone iPod ready audio track featuring expert contributor Stephen Cope from Wild Divine the makers of Relaxing Rhythms
  • Easy Relax – Ambient noise application (i.e. white noise, waves crashing, rainforest, etc.)
  • iQuarium – Chill out while watching your Parrot Cichlid fish swimming in its tank, feed it, play with it, interact with it
  • Lightening-Bug Sleep Clock – Ambient noise sleep app.
  • Meditation Helper – A meditation timer which allows you to set a target for the length of time you want to meditate each day. It includes a widget that displays the number of consecutive days you have hit the target. It is thus useful not only as a timer, but also as a tool to help motivate you to meditate regularly.
  • Music Therapy for Refreshment – Medium Speed Alpha Wave (10Hz) set in 5 melodic music pieces provides a most relaxing way to restore your vigor, to bring about a refreshed mind.
  • Qi Gong Meditation Relaxation – Improve your physical health, relax and reduce your stress by learning Qi Gong, gentle movement combined with breathing
  • Relax and Sleep – Choose and mix from over 35+ ambient sounds which incl. thunder and white noise.
  • Relax Completely – free hypnosis session for deep relaxation
  • Relax Melodies – Relaxing noises and animations
  • Relaxing Sounds – Create your own relaxing sounds by combining sounds
  • Simply Being Guided Meditation – Voice guided step-by-step instructions for meditation and relaxation
  • Stop Panic and Anxiety – Used as a dysfunctional thought record diary; contains relaxation audio (guided imagery and PMR) and psychoeducation on panic and anxiety
  • Stress Reduction – Contains relaxation and PMR audio
  • White Noise – White Noise Lite provides ambient sounds of the environment to help you relax or sleep.
  • Yoga Workout Planner – A comprehensive yoga app embedded with animated yoga classes. Positions are shown in animations.
  • YogaPedia – provides nearly 100 unique yoga positions, tips and information
Photo Credit: Pete Boyle http://have-a-word.com/tenacious/
Photo Credit: Pete Boyle

Now that the term is half over and we are heading into the home stretch, you may find yourself analyzing your performance thus far. You are now beginning to see what is and what isn’t working for you with regards to your academic learning strategy. It is easy to keep doing the things that are working for you, but the challenge is to find more effective ways for things that aren’t working for you.

Successful students are strategic thinkers who have found effective solutions to challenges that they are seeing in their learning strategy. They are able to step back and analyze why it isn’t working for them and then adjust their learning strategy to make it more effective, which allows them to persist.

Persistence vs Tenacity

The words persistence and tenacity are currently being used interchangeably in meaning and application. Those who persist or are tenacious, are finding ways to overcome a task or find a solution to a problem. However, they reflect two different trains of thought and levels of thinking.

One who persists will devise a possible solution to a task or problem and then will strictly follow the process to find the solution, regardless if the process is inefficient or flawed. Persistent learners put their head down and attack the issue at hand and work through the process. They will devise a plan of attack and stick with that plan until completion. They do not concern themselves with the effectiveness or how to improve the plan. These learners are characterized as those who “work harder and not smarter.”

On the contrary, the learners who are tenacious may have created an identical solution, but will constantly assess its effectiveness. They will utilize feedback throughout the process to ensure they are improving upon their strategy to create the most productive and efficient process in solving the task or problem. Strategic thinkers are characterized as those who “work smarter and not harder.”

The successful learner is the tenacious individual or strategic thinker. These learners have the ability to constantly assess their strategy throughout the learning process allowing the learner to create the most effective and efficient plan for success. They are aware of what is or isn’t working for them. They have the ability to develop a learning strategy and assess its effectiveness, which is the sign of a tenacious learner.

TENACIOUS LEARNERS are constantly seeking answers to these questions:

You can’t plan on doing things the same way and expect different results. The key is to continually assess and improve your strategy. Being a tenacious, strategic thinker is your key to being a successful learner. Be sure to continually assess and improve your learning strategy. Work smarter, not harder!

When writing an essay for an exam, pay particular attention to the words that are being used in the exam question. Understanding these words will allow you to provide the information your instructor is looking for as well as how to craft your answer.

Analyze: Break into separate parts and discuss, examine, or interpret each part. Illustrate: Give concrete examples. Explain clearly by using comparisons or examples.


Contrast: Show differences. Set in opposition. Compare: Examine two or more things. Identify similarities and differences. Interpret: Comment upon, give examples, describe relationships. Explain the meaning. Describe, then evaluate.


Criticize: Make judgments. Evaluate comparative worth. Criticism often involves analysis. If any of these terms are still unclear to you, go to an unabridged dictionary. Thorough knowledge of these words helps you give the teacher what he/she is requesting.


Outline: Describe main ideas, characteristics, or events. (Does not necessarily mean to write a Roman Numeral/Letter outline.)


Define: Give the meaning; usually a meaning specific to the course or subject. Explain the exact meaning. Definitions are usually short. Prove: Support with facts (especially facts presented in class or in the text.)
Describe: Give a detailed account. Make a picture with words. List characteristics, qualities, and parts.


Relate: Show the connections between ideas or events. Provide a larger context.


Discuss: Consider and debate or argue about the pros and cons of an issue. Write about any conflict. Compare and contrast.


State: Explain precisely.


Enumerate: List several ideas, aspects, events, things, qualities, reasons, etc.


Summarize: Give a brief, condensed account. Include conclusions. Avoid unnecessary details.


Evaluate: Give your opinion or cite the opinion of an expert. Include evidence to support the evaluation.


Trace: Show the order of events or progress of a subject or event.


Explain: Make an idea clear. Show logically how a concept is developed. Give the reason for an event.


Ellis, D. (1998). Becoming a Master Student. Houghton Mifflin: Boston

Everyone should feel some level of anxiety on test day. However, anxiety becomes a problem when it interferes with your ability to think and recall information. Test anxiety can create both physical and mental symptoms. Below are some strategies in managing test anxiety on the day of an exam.


Negative Self-Talk Positive Self-Talk
“I’ll never get finished.” “Just take it one step at a time.”
“If I miss this, I’ve really blown it.” “Some tension is inevitable; no need to worry about it.”
“Why am I so nervous? I hate feeling like this. I know I’m going to fail.” “I studied and I am confident I will do my best.”
“Everyone else is doing better than me.” “I’m doing fine. I am only concerned about myself.”
“If I fail this test, my life will fall apart.” “Even if I don’t do as well as I’d like, it’s not the end of the world.”
“Oh no! I studied this one but my mind is just going blank!” “I’ll skip this question and go on to some easier ones. I’ll come back to it later.”
“I know I missed the last answer. I should have gotten it!” “Even if I miss a few questions, that doesn’t bother me. I can still get a good grade.”



Deep breathing is one of the simplest techniques you can use to reduce anxiety before, during, and after a test. Breathing provides you with the oxygen necessary to think clearly and releases physical tension at the same time.

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Breath through your nose. Breathe in deeply into your abdomen. Pause before you exhale.
  3. Breathe out from your abdomen slowly.
  4. Use each inhalation as a moment to become aware of any tension in your body. Use each exhalation as an opportunity to let go of tension.
  5. Repeat once, then return to the test.



  • Let yourself stay with that scene for a few moments
  • Once you feel relaxed, imagine going in for your test.
  • Imagine yourself calmly sitting down, waiting to begin test. As you begin the test, you say to yourself “I am prepared. Relax. Concentrate.” You start the test and read the directions, planning your time carefully. You read and answer the first question…


  • Think about something melting when you want to relax. “Melting” evokes many images:
  • snow melting in the sun
  • a flame melting candle wax
  • marshmallow melting in hot chocolate
  • butter melting in a pan
  • chocolate chips melting in cookies


The relaxation procedure involves systematically tensing and then relaxing different groups of muscles in your body:

  • Begin the procedure by either sitting in a comfortable chair or lying down. Move your arms toward the center of your body and bend both arms at the elbow. Tighten your hands into fists and simultaneously tense the muscles in your upper arms and shoulders. Hold for ten seconds and then relax for fifteen to twenty seconds.
  • Tense your face muscles by wrinkling your forehead and cheek muscles. Hold for ten seconds then relax.
  • Tense the muscles in your chest for fifteen seconds and then relax. Repeat this procedure for all the different parts of your body while telling yourself that you are becoming more and more relaxed. Pay particular attention to the muscles in your neck and back since these muscles become tense easily.


Avoid people or situations that create anxiety.

  • Pay attention to the time allotted for the test, but avoid excessive clock–watching
  • Be sure you are settled in and relaxed prior to your test.
  • Avoid food or drinks that are stimulants and increase “jitters.”
  • Avoid talking about your test grade with others if this increases your anxiety. If you feel uncomfortable with being asked “How did you do”, respond with “I did as well as I expected.” or “I’d rather not talk about my grades.”
Butte College Center for Academic Success
Utah State University Academic Success Center
University of Alabama Center for Academic Success