Where Does Your Instructor Get Their Test Questions?

I’ve had professors who gave very organized lectures every day. I diligently took notes over every lecture, only to find on that fateful test day that nothing they talked about was on the test! If you’ve had this happen, you know how frustrating it can be. After getting burned a couple of times, I learned there was a difference between memorizing a lecture and acing a test.

Your first test of the semester should always be the one you study the most for; i.e. the right way. After that initial test, you should be able to pin down where the teacher gets their questions from and the type of info you will be expected to know.

I’ve found this skill to be infinitely useful. It allows me to study more efficiently, and dramatically cuts down the amount of time I spend studying for each test. I’m not 100% accurate, but after the first text I can usually figure out what I’ll need to know and what I’d be wasting my time trying to memorize.

A couple different styles of test writing I’ve identified:

– Test bank style: In this style, the professor uses the test bank of multiple choice and matching questions that the textbook manufacturer provided. Most kids are thrilled about multiple choice questions, but the truth is, multiple choice questions can suck much worse than short answer or essay questions. The test bank questions can be frustrating because they’re usually poorly written with inaccuracies and typos.

On the other hand, these tests can be the easiest to study for, because the questions will usually be word for word out of your book. Scanning the book, especially the bold face words and definitions, is the main objective here.

Always check out the website for your text. Many textbooks now have practice quizzes online to help you study. Don’t be surprised if they seem very similar to the questions on your exams!

– Straight outta the book style: The instructor writes the questions, but still bases them on material straight from the book. These questions are usually easier to understand than the test bank bank style, because the instructor can tailor them to the specific wording and examples they used in lecture. And they’re still based on your text, so you can brush up in case you, uh, you know, missed a few days or didn’t take notes. 😀

– Straight from the Power Point style: Who doesn’t use Power Point these days? In this style, the teacher writes the test themselves (this is a good thing), and bases all the questions off their Power Point. Many of my professors provide their Power Points online now, so you can use them later.

This type of test can vary in difficulty depending on the teacher. But it doesn’t matter, because having the Power Point, you’ll know all the material anyway.

– Straight from the lecture style. This one sucks, but I haven’t had too many professors who didn’t also provide an outline along with their lectures.

The solution here is to show up and take notes. You should be doing that anyway; at least until you take the first exam. In your higher level classes, you’ll have more competent instructors. (at least they think they’re more competent 😉 ) And they’ll be more likely to subject you to their boring lectures every day. But keep this in mind: most instructors will still base their teaching off the textbook, because it’s easy. It gives them a structured teaching outline to follow for the semester.