Got a STEM exam looming ahead of you? Studying for any STEM exam (that is, science, technology, engineering and maths) is no easy task. It’s a different kind of studying to a humanities exam and sometimes it’s a little hard to get your head around (especially when you lack the motivation for study). STEM subjects generally don’t involve essays or writing type questions, but instead put the focus on problem solving and equations.
Since I have a STEM exam coming up (a general relativity one in fact, eek!) I thought I’d share a few quick tips that I use when studying for a STEM exam.
Start Studying Early
It is quite difficult to cram last minute for any science or maths exams. It’s not just about memorising things but it’s also about understanding the information that’s given to you so that you can use it to solve problems. If you don’t understand how to use the material, it can be detrimental to your grade. Start studying early! I start approximately two weeks before an exam. Simple things such as writing notes or looking at problems can help you out. Starting early means that you also have time to talk to your teacher or lecturer about any problems you have with the material. If you are struggling with a particular concept, ask for help! That way, there is no last minute stress the night before because you can’t find an answer anywhere.
Make Notes for your STEM exam
Generally, my maths notes look very different to the notes from my language course, and there’s a reason for that! STEM subjects tend to have more equations, problems and formulas mixed in with the definitions and theories. So, when you make your notes for these subjects pay special attention to equations or formulas you need to remember by writing them in a different colour, highlighting them or putting them in a box. Also, focus on worked examples. Most courses will have examples of how to solve a problem (or a proof). By understanding these examples when you make your notes, you will understand how to do them when it’s time for your STEM exam. I like to write any examples in my astrophysics notes in blue and pop a box around them. That way when I flip through my notes I can immediately pick out the worked examples to study from them or see if I’ve completed the question correctly.
Flash Card your way to 100%!
Flash cards aren’t generally something that everyone uses for STEM exam preparation. Which I always thought was strange, because I love flashcards. I love making them, I love using them and I will never study without them. It might be something that I picked up from my language course, but they are a great way to remember information. Equations and formulas fit perfectly on them. Also, they’re portable and great for quick 5 minute study bursts. I’ve been making some to remember key points for my general relativity exam, and I carry them around when I’m on campus. If I have a lunchbreak, I see if I can remember a formula off the top of my head, then check the card to see if I’m right. You can also stick them in places, like on your bathroom mirror, to look at every morning when you get up.
Making the flashcards is even great for your preparation. Having to write down the equations or examples on index cards is good for keeping them in your mind. It’s a good practice to colour code certain topics, then when you complete practice exams, it’s easy to connect the information on the card with the concept. It’s a very useful way to study for people who don’t want to read or write pages of notes.
Practice Papers are a STEM girl’s best friend!
No matter what subject you do, practice papers are always going to be the most helpful preparation for an exam. They are particularly valuable to STEM students. I’m not going to lie, if I didn’t have practice papers for some subjects I would have had no idea what to expect when I walked into my exams. Practice papers (or past papers) provide you with an idea of the material that you will be required to know and also the kinds of questions that will appear. By doing the questions, you become familiar with using the information that you’ve studied and applying it to problems. It’s a super helpful way to test yourself and reveal any gaps in your knowledge. If you come across something you don’t know, make a note of what it is and what you should know about it. At the end of your study you can focus on the points that you aren’t sure of, and you’ve made yourself a handy little cheat sheet to help with it (a good way to trick yourself into writing some more notes!). By practicing with past exams or sample questions you’ll become accustomed to the kinds of questions that are asked, so when that paper is placed in front you, you’ll nail that STEM exam!
Everyone has their own study methods and way to prepare for an exam. These are just a few of the tricks I use. Being well prepared for your exam will help make it a little less stressful. If you have any other helpful tips to study or if you’re studying for a STEM exam right now, I’d love to know about it. Leave a comment below!
Good luck in your exam!
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