OPINION: A college girl’s guide for when you forget to study


Wren Jonhson

Illustration depicting Danielle Wagner’s column on what to do when your forget to study, or get a surprise exam.

Chances are you’ve had to wing a test at some point in your school career. You walk into class and your stomach drops when the professor surprises you with a test, only for you to find out it wasn’t a surprise for everyone else.

Don’t worry, there are strategies that can help you. I’m not promising a perfect score; all I’m saying is that you don’t have to feel completely lost.

The first thing to realize is that you need to show up to the class. Even if you forgot to study, skipping is not going to help your grade in any way. So eat your breakfast, drink some caffeine and drag your butt to class.

Take your time. Don’t rush through the test because you don’t understand any of it. Slow down and read each question carefully. You may catch a couple that you truly know or at least have a good guess.

Essay Tests

Make sure you at least put something in the space available. Take a guess, even if you think it’s totally off. If you leave an essay question blank there’s no chance of you getting any points. You never know, maybe you babbling about something will get you some points.

Along with that, write about what you do know. If you aren’t confident in your answer try to connect it to something you do remember.

Do not forget your thesis. That’s the entire backbone of a paper, and with it you can centralize what you’re talking about. It might even make it seem like you were prepared for the exam. It’ll be a lot easier to fill in the middle ground if you have a statement outline.

Play to your strengths by adding facts and terms you can remember. Most of the time you’ll end up putting something in there that’s helpful.

If all else fails, write about what you know the teacher wants to hear. Does your professor have a certain concept or idea they regularly talk about? It could be a safe fallback.

Multiple Choice

Chances are this version of a test is going to be a whole lot easier to wing. Guessing will be your best friend.

The first thing you need to do is cross out the options that are definitely not the answer. Don’t let “all of the above” or “none of the above” answers psych you out. Just use your context clues to see if they even make sense.

Avoid the extreme answers. If the answer doesn’t make sense, or has nothing to do with what the question is asking, cross it out.

Most importantly, trust your gut. Don’t second guess yourself, because chances are your brain is trying to remind you of something that you already know. Run with it.

If you really have no idea on a question, move on and come back to it later. You won’t get anywhere staring at one question for 20 minutes.

Lastly, make sure you answer every single question. Don’t leave anything blank, who knows — you might get lucky.