MIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
ACADEX: MIT Center for Academic Excellence

Mastering Tests: Define the Challenge

Some of the anxiety associated with test-taking comes from fear of the unknown. Since you cannot know in advance what questions will be asked on an exam, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the possibilities. Actual knowledge about an upcoming test can help to counter nervousness.  You can assemble a surprising amount of information about how your tests will probably unfold that will help you focus your studies.

Define the Exam

You have several avenues available to help you to find out pertinent information about upcoming tests. Actively use the subject syllabus and website and the notes that you take in class to figure out what will be covered on your tests (see the following section on Resources).  Don’t hesitate to ask Professors, Recitation Instructors, Teaching Assistants, and others, any and all of the following questions about upcoming tests:

Use the Resources You Have

While an instructor will probably not provide an exam outline, you do have the next best thing—the subject syllabus and websites.

Remember that an instructor might have different expectations for each test, especially for the midterm and final exam. Never assume that subsequent tests will be administered in the same fashion as the first.