Giant Flashcards

Study Tip: Giant Flashcards

During my senior year of college, I wanted to creatively pull out of a study rut. The courses I had planned would require memorization of a large set of new information. With the goal of involving as many of the five senses as I could, I began trying different note taking strategies.

I used InstantCert’s flashcards to supplement my textbooks. To internalize what I was learning, I would type the new facts in my own words into a memo on my computer. This strategy inspired me to try writing facts on 8.5″ x 11″ paper. Writing instead of typing helped me to remember facts even better.

Another technique I tried was to group the facts of a certain year. For example, when I was studying the history of Europe after 1945, I created a page for specific years to cement the order of events in my mind. I also used a page to write definitions of new words and biographies of people. You can see some of my note sheets in the header photo.

These oversize flashcards had purpose beyond a writing exercise. I hung them in my room so I could view them in the mornings and evenings and rehearse the new information. Rehearsal after learning aids memorization.

Finding new ways to retain information shook up my study time. What’s your favorite way to memorize new facts?

Black mortarboard from College Without the Campus

How to Reduce Test Anxiety

How do you respond to taking tests? Testing is one activity that is a part of life for most of us, and despite its ubiquity, it brings feelings of dread to many people. Tests crop up in school, work, extra-curricular certifications, and even workouts! Because tests are a perennial part of life, I share two test-taking techniques that have helped me manage my testing nerves.

Out of all the types of tests I’ve taken, such as end-of-the-school-year tests, computer tests, quizzes, CPR tests, CLEP tests, language exams, and swimming tests, the one type of test that most unnerved me (and gave me good skills for taking credit-by-exam tests) was piano syllabus tests.

The piano program I participated in had one test for Levels 1 through 10. At each level the student was required to learn specific music theory, demonstrate music skills, and play a certain number of pieces from different eras. I typically completed one level yearly, so every spring I would put my acquired knowledge to the test. It was a doable task, to be sure. But something about having to prepare such a well-rounded set of skills and have them all top-notch on a particular date made me nervous.

When the testing day came, I needed to remain calm. Scheduling the test in the morning was helpful, so I didn’t have as long to worry. Meanwhile, I trained my mind toward the test benefits—I had learned new repertoire and bolstered my music skills. Once I arrived to the test location, I mentally pictured myself walking out of the room after the test having done my best. This post-test visualization is one of the most helpful tips I have for test taking. The more vividly I could picture myself successful at the finish line of the test, the more peace I had while waiting to begin. Visualizing success is well known to athletes who report improved performance and confidence.[1]

Another strategy is to confront my worst fears. This wasn’t as effective on the day of the test, but a day or two before testing this strategy was quite helpful. I would imagine what would happen if I broke down into tears during the test—embarrassing for sure, but nothing else would happen. I would get it back together and continue. If I failed the test, I could retake the test at the next available opening, or I could review the material on my own and then move forward without completing this level. Though the path to move forward after failure depends on the specific test, there will almost certainly be a way to move forward.

Testing can bring up many of the more uncomfortable emotions such as fear, anxiety, nervousness, nausea, loss of focus, and even physical pain. Who in their right mind would purposely do something to trigger these emotions? I know why we do. Once I have tackled a test, I am stronger. I have not shrunk from what I know must be done. This boldness brings new resolution to the test taker. So, pass or fail, let’s conquer our tests!

What are your favorite ways to combat test anxiety?

[1] Matt Mayberry, “The Extraordinary Power of Visualizing Success,” and

Carolyn Gregoire, “The Brain-Training Secrets Of Olympic Athletes,”

Resource Books For CLEP Tests

How to Earn College Credit with CLEP

Previously I posted “Introduction to CLEP tests for Parents of High School Students” which broaches this topic for parents’ benefit. Here I’ll share tips for someone who wants to try credit-by-exam testing themselves.

Winter break is coming to a close, and now it’s the final semester or second-to-last quarter of this school year. As you look over your schedule for the rest of the year and calculate the number of credits you plan to earn, you might be thinking you’d like to earn a few extra credits and jump ahead for the coming year. Then someone mentions CLEP tests. For about $100 or roughly the cost of two video games, you could earn 3-9 credits. That’s 3-9 credits closer to graduating.

As you ponder this option, you may have a few questions. Will my college accept these credits? Check your college’s website. If there is a search bar handy, try searching for “CLEP” or “transfer credit.” College policy for credit-by-exam tests is typically available in one of the college catalogs. Once you’ve found this information, check the fine print: is there a limit to how many credits you can transfer? a cut-off grade (such as junior status) when you can no longer transfer credit?

If you can apply credit-by-exam tests to your degree, the next step is to verify there is a test that matches a course you need to complete. Credit-by-exam tests can be excellent candidates to fill free elective and general education course credits. For more information about how to fit a credit-by-exam test to your degree plan, see “Where Will My First CLEP Test Fit into My Degree Plan?” (page 33) and Chapter 11: “How to Make a Degree Plan” in College Without the Campus. You might also peruse

Now you’re ready to begin studying.  Questions about textbooks? A Google search will get you started, as will a visit to  I highly recommend CLEP Official Study Guide for practice tests, and you may be able to borrow materials from the library or from friends who have previously taken a similar course. One of the best parts of studying for a credit-by-exam test is that you are in charge of your schedule. You can decide how much to study and when to take the test. Perhaps you want to study for the test during the remainder of the school year and then take the test. Or, maybe you’ll knock it out in a couple weeks. The choice is yours.

Will credit-by-exam tests work for you? After a visit to your college’s website to see if they will accept transferred test credit, you might decide to give CLEP a try. By testing out 😉 a new method of earning credit, you can save time and money.