Student Life

Creating the Perfect (Teacher-Permitted) Exam "Cheat Sheet"

With so much information on the exam, how do you decide what to include on your "cheat sheet"?

Erica Cirino, Varsity Tutors' Contributor

October 06, 2015

Creating the Perfect (Teacher-Permitted) Exam "Cheat Sheet"
Great news: your teacher is permitting a “cheat sheet” for the exam.
The bad news is you have a really challenging upcoming exam, but the good news is your teacher is allowing you to create and use a test-day study aid. Usually hand-written on both sides of a size of a large index card or one side of loose-leaf, test-day study aids are essentially exam “cheat sheets” that are not considered cheating when permitted by your teacher. Given you’ll have your notes in front of you; you should ace your exam, right?
Hold on, there’s one problem: given all the material the exam will cover, you’re not sure what you should include. How do you make a test-day study aid that will best help you on an exam? The following three tips will help you create a test-day study aid or “cheat sheet” that will help you achieve test-day success:

1. Prepare

The cheat sheet “remembers” facts, formulas, and procedures for you. This helps buy your brain space for understanding concepts and solving problems. Keep in mind you really need to understand the test material, and there’s no cheat sheet in the world that can do that for you. Start your study aid by preparing: review all of the material your teacher said would be on your test, also looking at your class syllabus and any recent assignments you’ve completed.
Then, make two lists separating the things you need to remember from the things you need to understand. Good things to include on your test prep include steps of processes, specific formulas, tables, and reminders that help you understand key concepts.

2. Create

Look at your list of things to remember and divide it into things you have trouble remembering and things that you easily remember. Leave the things you easily remember off of your test-day study aid. Space is limited on your notecard or loose-leaf sheet, and the more you try to cram onto it, the more challenging it can be to find the information you need during your test. Organize the information on your test-day study aid by the situation in which you need to use it. For instance, if preparing a study aid for a physics exam, you could write headings such as “mechanics,” “waves” and “electricity,” and under each you would write any formulas or variables you have trouble remembering. Besides using headings, you can further organize your study aid by using arrows, borders, highlighting, and/or color-coding. When writing your study guide, be sure it’s readable. Be neat and write large enough so what you’ve written is easy to read during a test. Use the space wisely, only writing down what you need and making use of drawings, shorthand, abbreviations or symbols when appropriate as a way to save space.

3. Edit

The key to determining whether or not you have created a suitable test-day study aid is to take it for a test drive: ask your teacher for a practice exam, or use a textbook to try practice questions similar to those that will appear on your exam. The process of using your study sheet before your official test can help you learn where on it you can find specific information and helps you better understand the test material. Perhaps even more importantly, using your “cheat sheet” on practice exams can help you to identify any flaws that you can correct before your test. Erica Cirino is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, the leading curated marketplace for private tutors. The company also builds mobile learning apps, online tutoring environments, and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies.

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