Preparing For The Finals: A Pass-It-Yourself Guide ================================================== by Syed Shibli firstname.lastname@example.org Contrary to popular belief, most final examinations are actually very difficult. Face it, finals are like sex: the more you think about it, the more nervous you are about performing better than you did last time. Sure, given enough time to prepare and study for a subject, a student can succeed, but to what purpose? Idiot. To get good grades, of course. Therefore, to help you achieve just that, I have drawn on my long experience as a professional student to come up with this handy pass-it-yourself guide on preparing for that important final. Cramming for that Gynecology class? On the brink of flunking that Proctology course? Just read on: there's not a nugget of useful information that can be derived from a careful reading of these study tips. (1) Getting Rid Of Your Roommate ============================ With careful planning and execution, a roommate can be your ticket to academic success. Roomates can be divided into two categories: the loud, boisterous ones who go about defacing public property, and the silent, astute types who pick their noses when you're not looking. Regardless his or her personality, your roommate can always be relied upon to give you that extra peace and privacy while you study for that important Calculus exam. Getting rid of your roommate is easier than you think. If your roommate has a foot fetish, tell him about that free 200-page shoe catalog they're giving away at JCPenny's. If your roommate is a health freak, comment on how tight her jeans look on her lately. And if your roommate is a loud, bad-tempered, 350-pound nose tackle, don't say anything. (2) An Apple A Day Keeps The F's Away ================================= Good nutrition is frequently a governing factor in a student's academic achievement. After all, if food doesn't make the man, what does? Stupid. The point is, a well-balanced diet can go a long way in transforming an otherwise hormonally-imbalanced college student into a healthy, vivacious `A' student. Good nutrition means clean, freshly prepared meat and vegetables, so this will exclude all cafeteria food and food served in recycled cardboard boxes and styrofoam containers. For that important late night study binge, a handy list of food items to have would include a glass of water, one Chiquita banana to replenish the whole of last year's lost nutrients, and an Indiana baloney sandwich. (3) Stress Management: Fact or Fiction? =================================== Over the last few years, some so-called ``stress management'' techniques have come into vogue on college campuses. While it is not the purpose of this guide to expound on the virtues and shortcomings of such techniques, suffice it to say that when under stress, cuss. If your neighbour's stereo system is stretching the limits of your ear drums, by all means, cuss. If you think your professor's assigning you one too many chapters to cover, cuss. Cussing is an art, so good cussing is a good art: done correctly, it can make a person feel a million and a half times better. Done poorly, it can fly back in your face and leave you feeling like someone pulled your nails out with a pair of pliers. (4) That Interim Period Before A Final: Things To Do ================================================ So now you are all done with studying. You have read all the necessary chapters and done most, if not all, of the exercises. What do you do in that interim period right after you finished studying and just before the final? Do you sleep? No! Do you do your laundry? No! Do you bath your pet hamster? No! Check first to make sure that all of these important chores have been done before putting your life in the hands of the examiner: (a) Inspect cheat sheet and see if it has been properly photo-reduced so as to render intelligible all important formulae, theorems, lemmas, and corollaries. (b) Arrange to meet with professor two hours before exam, and utilize brown-nose skills to extract every last bit of information about the test. This might not always work. (c) Check to make sure that all pencils are sharpened. Plan on sitting as far away as possible from annoying student (there's one in every class) who likes to borrow stuff from other people. (d) Also plan on sitting as far away as possible from students who make whistling noises with their noses because of overabundance of nasal hair. This can get very annoying. (e) Draw mental plans of building where exam is to be held. Note exits and entrances, location of restrooms, water coolers, stairwells, sharp objects, and the like. This might come in handy if you might have to beat a hasty retreat for being caught cheating. (5) The Moment Of Truth: Tips On Answering Exam Questions ===================================================== Three kinds of exams dominate today's college campuses: the take-home exam, the multiple choice exam, and the essay exam. None of these is actually preferable over the other; regardless the type of the exam, a professor will always find ways to rip you to shreds. Nontheless, a brief discussion of each is in order: (a) The Take-Home Exam: ------------------- This kind of exam, long the favorite of graduate students with masochistic tendencies, is rapidly gaining popularity due to its relative ease of implementation. It's name, however, is misleading. Frequently, a take-home exam involves more leg-work than a visit to the zoo. A lot of time is wasted digging for information in books that offer little or no chance for you to find a solution to the question. A better alternative would be to drop in the professor's office from time to time to ask for the book that you need. Here's a sample session that you might want to emulate on your own: You : I don't want to bother you but I was doing Question Two and realized that I left the reference I needed for that question back in my apartment. Could I borrow yours instead? Prof: Sure. Did you say Question Two? Then you'll probably need this book. I think I've marked the page numbers. (hands you his reference) You: Thanks. Prof: You're welcome. Come see me if you need anything else. Now that wasn't too hard was it? One item to beware, though: Never try this stunt more than three times. If your professor is smart enough he might begin to suspect that you're using him. (b) The Multiple-Choice Exam: ------------------------- Myth: Multiple-choice exams are easy. Fact: They are. Countless students have wailed about the difficulty of multiple choice exams when the truth is that given four choices in a question, a student is more likely to pick the right answer than Madonna is likely to turn into a nun. The crux of the matter is this: be careful when choosing the right solution. A student should consider all possible choices and eliminate the bad ones before marking his or her choice. For example, given the following hypothetical question, which would you choose? Which of the following is correct? (a) Keats had diarrhea after he wrote La Belle Dame Sans Merci (b) Keats complained that he had diarrhea when he wrote La Belle Dame Sans Merci (c) Keats had diarrhea before he wrote La Belle Dame Sans Merci (d) Keats wrote Ode To A Grecian Urn An English major would choose (d), but looking at the question again carefully, one can conclude without a doubt that the answer is (a) Keats had diarrhea after he wrote La Belle Dame Sans Merci. Using proof by induction, (b) is clearly not the answer because Keats couldn't have written his masterpiece if he had diarrhea before that. (c) is eliminated following the same train of thought. (d) is incorrect because we know for a fact that (a) is already correct, so there cannot be two correct answers in the same question. (c) The Essay Question ------------------ Perhaps no other exam is more dreaded than the essay exam. Essay exams offer a lot of flexibility, but this flexibility comes associated with it a tangled mess of details and sub-details that the student needs to memorize in order to come up with a choice essay. To give an example, the following two paragraphs are excerpts from actual essays written by a poor student and a good student. The topic is Fitzgerald's book, "The Great Gatsby." Poor student: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Gatsby saw the green light and knew right off he had to have Daisy no matter what. It was almost as if the light meant "Go!" in his tender heart. To get Daisy he arranged to have parties at his house, hoping that Daisy might turn up some day to meet him. Let me quote something: "There was music from my neighbour's house all through the summer nights. The men and girls came and went like moths among the champagne and the whisperings and the stars. In his blue gardens ..." Fitzgerald also wrote "blue gardens" here but I think he must have meant green instead of blue. Could it be a literary faux pas? Only Fitzgerald knows. Good student: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Perhaps it was the green light that pulled him towards Daisy. Perhaps it was the stars, or what part of it was his, that gave him such an intense longing for her that made such an irrefutable claim on his desires. Or perhaps it was Tom Buchanan, and all of his ilk, who drove him to try once again to capture the woman of his younger years. Whatever it is, we can only conclude that Gatsby suffered an intense nostalgia to relive the time he spent with Daisy. The first paragraph is neanderthal, simplistic, and replete with bastardizations. The second paragraph is elegantly written, trenchant, and forceful. You be the judge. (6) What To When The Going Gets Tough: A Final Word =============================================== In conclusion, let me just say this: don't expect to get it right the first time. Although these tips have been time-tested and proven to be reliable, their actual implementation might prove to be more difficult than it might seem to be. If this is the case, do not despair. Learning to study is a lot like learning to use a power tool: at times you never know which lever to press and which switch to turn. The key is to experiment: do whatever you feel comfortable with. In time, preparing for the finals will almost be second nature to you. I think it was Hemmorhoidus who once said, in a drunken stupor: "Be ye man or wuman, be ye learner or teacher, be ye beggar or rich, be ye learners all!" I don't know what he meant, either. Good luck.
(From the "Rest" of RHF)