Laboratory exams evaluate the knowledge and skills you've gained during labs. They may also test your ability to integrate text and lecture content with the lab content. Some students consider lab exams to be more stressful or difficult than lecture exams because lab exams usually include visual components, such as slides, specimens, or diagrams, as well as time constraints for answering each question.
Here are some ideas and strategies, gathered from current and former University of Guelph students, to help you manage this type of exam.
During a lab exam, you'll often need to use certain skills, such as identifying structures in a specimen or using a microscope, which can't be easily learned outside of the lab. To ensure enough time to learn and practise these important skills, follow these suggestions for using your lab time effectively:
Some key questions to ask before studying for and writing a lab exam are:
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you decide how to study and what to emphasize when you study.
For each lab, make a set of study notes that integrate and summarize the important information used to complete the lab. For example, you may include the pre-lab talk, class notes, lab demonstrations, the lab manual, and visuals. Reviewing your study notes regularly will enhance your ability to remember the information. You may also find flashcards and charts helpful for remembering and recalling information quickly.
Flashcards, which incorporate pictures where applicable, can help you test your ability to identify structures and recall information while under time constraints. For example, by placing a diagram on the front of a flashcard with arrows pointing to key structures, you can test your ability to identify the structures and their functions. Ask a friend to help, or use a stopwatch, to practise recalling the answers in a limited amount of time.
Creating charts is another effective way to study. Charts allow you to compare and contrast a lot of information in a concise and visual manner and to continually integrate additional information as you learn it. For example, you could create a chart to learn the features of the different muscles in the human body.; An example is shown below and could be easily expanded as more information is learned.
One of the challenges of lab exams is working with three-dimensional objects which may be displayed from different angles than those shown during labs. When studying, focus on the spatial relationships of the structures. When possible, attend a review session or another lab in order to look at the material from different views and angles.
With permission from your lab instructor, you can also take photographs of dissections or demonstration material. Be cautious, however, to ensure that you're using your time wisely. It can be a very time-consuming process to photograph the material, download it onto your computer, and label the pictures. Make sure you have the time to do this and are not just finding a creative way to procrastinate.
Creating and responding to potential exam questions allows you to review the material, look for relationships among the many pieces of information you're studying, and accustom yourself to the types of questions that might appear on the exam. Common types of questions include:
Based on the objectives and concepts presented in the labs, try to anticipate questions that may appear on the exam. ;For example, if a lab focused on the reproductive anatomy of a female mink, you could anticipate questions pertaining to identifying the major structures in the female reproductive tract. You could further assume that after identifying a structure you may need to state its function. If you also studied the male reproductive tract in the mink, you might expect exam questions which ask you to enumerate the differences between the male and female reproductive tracts.
Some lab exams are bell ringers, in which a bell (or other auditory signal) indicates that you must move from one station to the next. To keep calm in a potentially stressful situation, it's important to know the following:
For questions relating to course content, your class instructor, lab instructor, and TAs are all excellent sources of information. Consult your course outlines for their contact information.