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Succeed at Exams

What is a lab exam?

  • Lab exams can have different formats, including the infamous “bell ringer.”
  • They usually include visual components, such as slides, specimens, or diagrams, as well as time constraints for answering each question.
  • They can also test your ability to integrate text and lecture content with lab content.

What are some strategies for studying for lab exams?

  • Find out what you can about the content and format of the exam questions.
    • Examples: one-word answers, chart completion
  • Start studying early
    • Make a plan 1 - 3 weeks in advance based on what needs to be covered.
  • Think about how the questions will be presented
    • Examples: slideshow, microscope slide, preserved specimen, photograph, diagram. Study examples in the same format.
  • Make a set of study notes that integrates and summarizes the important information used to complete the lab.
    • Examples: pre-lab talk, class notes, lab demonstrations, the lab manual, and visuals.
  • Use flashcards to test your ability to identify structures and recall information while under time constraints.
  • Answer practice questions under time constraints.

What are some strategies for writing lab exams?

  • Decide if at each station you will either look at the visual first or read the questions first.
  • Read the questions carefully to ensure you know what's being asked.
  • Check your spelling! Often marks are deducted for incorrect spelling.

What should I do after the exam?

  • Look over your exam, if you get it back, to see where you have gone wrong, and what you have done well. If your instructor doesn’t routinely return exams, ask if you can see yours to learn from your errors.
  • Use this information to help you study more effectively next time.
  • Check out the Analyzing Exam Errors guide to help you go over feedback.

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