Help With Statistics Exams
What is really the best way to prepare for a stats exam? Is it a bit of a random processes, or is it something you can fully anticipate? From my experience, student tend to think that the former is the case, but I can tell you that preparing for a statistics exam has its method to make it a very predictable endeavor.
It obviously depends on the situation, but many students panic and kind of walk in circles, not really advancing towards the objective, and that is why they feel kind of hopeless, with a sense that nothing depends on them. So, you have to break that pattern and start moving DIRECTLY into your objective, with a clear plan of action.
Again, nothing is written in stone and things will vary case to case, but here I will describe a proven and tested strategy when it is about mastering a statistics examination, from the least important quiz, to the most important final exam.
First of all, you need to define your objective for the exam
Although it may seems obvious, most people never start from the beginning, they just forget to decide what are they looking for specifically. What are you looking for? Do you want to get the highest possible grade, or do you want to get the possible understanding of the contents?
In reality, you may think that those two things are the same but not necessarily. I have seen students who really know and understand the material, but they did not prepare for the actual test and they felt under the pressure needing to responding to the exam answers quickly.
Or perhaps your objective is achieve BOTH things: great understanding and great performance, but for that you need a more comprehensive and intense plan. So, you can really choose any objective (even, to dominate the world), but the plan required for that objective will depend on its difficulty. Usually, when in a pickle, the practical thing is to aim at having a great performance, which is usually a pretty feasible goal.
How can I pass my statistics exam?
Contrary to what you may think, passing your statistics exam is more about preparing the exam itself than preparing the contents. Many students obsess about the contents themselves and forget or disregard preparing for the mechanics of the exam itself.
Notice that I am not saying that understanding the content is not important: what I am saying is that preparing the contents need to go hand to hand to preparing for the mechanics of the test and what will be included in it.
For example, you may be enthralled into the idea of understanding all the proofs from the textbook, when your test is about short answers, mostly based on numerical questions. So, it would definitely not be the best approach to focus on proofs if you know that the test will be based on the short, numerical questions.
Are you saying what I think: can I pass a statistical exam without studying?
No, absolutely not: you will VERY LIKELY fail a stats exam if you don't study. What I am saying is something completely different, which is you need to FOCUS your study on what is going to be relevant on the actual test.
But then I hear students complaining: "Wait, but I don't know what it is going to be in the test...". Well, so then you probably haven't been going to class. I would say that in 99% of cases your stats instructor will give clear hints about the test: "Guys, the test will have 5 questions, and it will be mainly on blah, blah"
So then, you maybe actually missed that info. No problem, as your classmates. No classmates? Ask your instructor directly. And then you may think, "Ok, it is fine, but how will I know how the actual questions will be like?". Good question.
How to Know what will be included in my stats exam
Truth is, either the instructor will post a sample stats exam with answers, and if he or she does not do, you can always ask, and chances are that he or she will put it out. Some instructors will not do it on their own will, but will do it with a tiny tiny pressure from the students.
And funny enough, chances are that the sample exam questions will be very similar to the actual exam questions. Sometimes they will be the same. You would question yourself, how could this be the case, and you need to put yourself in the shoes the instructor.
If he or she actually gives out a sample test, if it is not very close to the actual questions, students will complain. And if there is one thing that instructors don't want and that is students complaints. So, it is a little bit of a strategy game: if you force the hand of the instructor to put out a sample test, in all chances that sample test will be very much like the test.
Strategy is the name of the game. You need to study smart, with laser-tight focus on what will be on the test.
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