Much of what has been said up to this point has centered on the importance of regular, relaxed reading and study. Earlier in this book I advised you to read all your assigned books and articles in the first two weeks of the quarter or semester, and at that time to set up recall patterns on all this reading. Then you should concentrate on reviewing your recall patterns at regular intervals, and when necessary should reread especially tough or important materials well before examination time arrives.
This way, you will improve your memory of the material over the course of many weeks and months, to the point where you gain great familiarity and facility in evaluating and discussing it. Such an intimate understanding of school assignments is an important prerequisite to maximize one's success on tests.
Cramming, in contrast, involves gaining only a temporary, superficial grasp of required books and articles. Furthermore, trying to take in an entire semester's course work in only a day or two can be exhausting and may dull the mental acuity necessary to do one's best on a test.
To be sure, some students can get very good grades after a cramming session. But they could do better—and certainly would enjoy learning much more—if they substituted the methods I've been describing for last-minute cramming.
Of course, you will want to intensify your studying in the day or two before an exam, just to be sure that the important facts and concepts are at your fingertips. But there's a way to go about this without increasing stress levels and triggering panic.
I've included below a "test inventory checklist" that we recommend our students use when they are in the final phase of studying for an exam. But note that it's best to finish the process described in these points before the day immediately preceding the test. On that last day, as we'll see shortly, the best students generally follow a somewhat different procedure.
So here are some suggestions about what to do during the pretest preparation period up to, but not including, the last day before the exam:
One, recall what's been discussed most in the class. You should be able to identify these points from your recall patterns. Then, be sure you know this information cold— because it's quite likely you'll see some of it on the test.
Two, taking each text or other piece of assigned reading in turn, check to see that you know the most important points, dates, terminology or principles, as highlighted by the author.
Three, either on paper or out loud, define all the new words, ideas and thoughts emphasized by your teacher or by the various authors in the course reading. You may have heard these words and concepts so oftdn that you think you know them. But in fact, you can't be sure you can give an adequate definition or description unless you actually do it.
Four, jot down all the questions you can think of that your teacher might ask. Then, try answering aloud each of the questions you've posed. Many students find it's also helpful to draw a brief recall pattern containing the key points remembered during these talk-aloud sessions.
Five, when you review your materials, try to explain in your own words what you've learned. By rephrasing what you've read, you'll accomplish two things. You'll make the information your own by demonstrating to yourself that you really understand what you've read. And you'll prepare yourself to give a fresh version of the information on the test. Teachers prefer that students explain assigned materials in their own terms, rather than just parrot back the facts and concepts in the author's words and phrases.
A couple of exceptions to this point: Often there are central, landmark terms and phrases in a field of study that you should echo in your examinations and tests, just to show that you are familiar with basic knowledge or important developments in that field.
For example, you'll undoubtedly find you have to use precise terms like "genus" and "species" when you're writing an essay on those topics for a biology exam. Also, it probably wouldn't be wise to write a test answer on England's Glorious Revolution of 1688 without using the term "Glorious Revolution."
Also, you may want to use the author's own words—or for that matter, your teacher's own words—when you're including a direct quotation on a test. A short (and important) direct quote on a test, with an appropriate citation of its source, can impress many teachers.
Six, review all the conclusions that your teacher and the authors you've read have made. Some of these are likely to be called for on your test.
Seven, in the last day or so, concentrate mainly on reviewing your recall patterns. Your main objectives should be to fix the overall sweep of the course clearly in your mind, and also to check your memory of the major topics and subtopics.
When you're presented with a question on the exam, you should be in a position to "file through" your memory and pick out the facts and concepts you need to respond to the test question. The best way to do this is to memorize the overall structure of the course, a structure which will be reflected on your recall patterns.
At this time, you may also want to refer back to your textbooks or other sources for any points that you've left off your recall patterns. This is your last chance to do this, and don't be discouraged or panic if you find some rereading is necessary. Remember, you now have the skills to check books quickly to gather additional information.
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Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.