The 5 Types of Exams You’ll Take in College

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Want to know how to spot an exam-taking student? Here’s a tip: go to your student union or local coffeehouse, find the darkest corner surrounded by the most empty cups and bags of chips, and look for the person in sweatpants and flip flops who may or may not be crying. Exams are  one of the hardest parts of college because there are just so many of them. Here are a few of the standard tests you might happen upon in your college years:

1. The “We Learned That?” Exam

It could be a footnote in a medieval history textbook or a passing comment from your British lit professor – either way, you have no idea what this question means or what it is asking you to do. At all. Even if you did know what it was asking, there’s no way you could have remember this obscure info, right? 

Tip From A TA: “Make you own goofy memory aids (mnemonics),” said Elaine Sponholtz, TA for Writing For Electronic Media at the University of Florida. “If you are trying to remember a list of events or all those newspapers and their editors, mental pictures and/or acronyms can help a lot.”

2. The “You Want Me To Do What In 45 Minutes?” Exam

These are sometimes the most stressful, if only for the fact that you are supposed to fill out 50 multiple choice questions, three sections of true/false and matching, translate a paragraph into Latin, and write an essay on the theory of relativity in the course of one class period. Because professors aren’t here to be nice, right? They were programmed by a dark overlord to make our brains question our own intelligence, right? Right?!

Says history major Rachel Walkover: “For my High Middle Ages class, [I had an exam that] was an outline map question and four multiple choice and an essay. The map itself was just an outline of Europe with no indication of anything, including which way was North. So I spent 15 minutes trying to figure out which way North was – and it was a 50 minute exam. But it ended up being okay because the fire alarm in the building went off and he gave us the next class period to finish.” See? The sun really does shine at the end, guys.

Tip To Survive: Take it easy. Cross out the answers you know are incorrect and go from there. But be careful not to overthink. Overthinking leads to headaches. Headaches lead to pain. You don’t need any more pain than you already have just taking the exam. You can do this.

3. The “No Matter How Much You Studied, You Still Don’t Know This” Exam

No matter how hard we try to avoid them, there are just some classes that are meant to ruin your semester. It’s inevitable. From Nationalism in Cold War Asia (?!) to (gulp) Biochemistry II, there are courses that were obviously designed to make us weep. And you may fail. But have no fear – you’re not alone. There’s always next semester! (Speaking from experience here, people. It’s not the end.)

Tip From A TA:  “[Schedule] a few minutes with the person who created (or is at least familiar with) the test,” says Houston Wells, who is a TA for Fundamentals of Production at UF. “Give them a quick rundown of what you've studied and how you prepared, and see if they reflect any advice about topics that you may have under (or over) prepared for. I don't think this is "sucking up" or anything– I think it's due diligence.”

4. The Online Exam

There are few evils in this world as cumbersome and inherently stressful as online exams. So many things can go wrong – the Internet goes out, your school site shuts down, anything. We just need an hour to do this. Please, school based wi-fi, just bear with me here.  

Tip to Survive: Don’t underestimate online exams if they are “open note.” These can be tricky, so make sure you go over your notes beforehand just in case.

5. Finals

There is a place where happiness and all forms of slumber go to die – it is a dark, tear-dampened place, dim and awful and strewn across libraries everywhere. Its name…is finals week.

Most finals are more trying than any of the exams you’ve taken all semester. Some even seem to combine all of the previous types of tests into one giant pile of “WHY?!” It’s pure evil, I say.

Tip To Survive: Think happy thoughts. Drink lots of coffee. Eat a cookie. Hug a puppy. Break is right around the corner – you’ll be okay. 


Have any other tips? Comment below and share with friends!

Junior > Telecommunications > University of Florida

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