Using Study Aides in Exam Writing – Lessons Learned from Practice

Using Study Aides in Exam Writing – Lessons Learned from Practice

Maureen Connolley
2003 3M Teaching Fellow

bout six years ago, I decided that the exam agony which accompanied each semester was not an experience I wished to continue, my Catholic upbringing notwithstanding. Agony for agony’s sake is poor fuel for positive transformative pedagogy, and so I embarked on the adventure of the “cheat sheet” or “study aide,” as my institution calls it, which could be prepared ahead of time and brought into the exam with the student.

I remind students that creating a cheat sheet is as much a study practice as it is an exam assist. I have been doing teaching and learning research on these cheat sheets ever since.

Research of this type does require an internal ethics approval and provision for an informed consent form, so that students know that various pieces of their course assignments will be used for my research. Students remain anonymous. The only information transferred to the cheat sheet is gender and year code and the grades on various exam questions plus a letter-number combination to keep each sheet distinct. Sheets are not coded or analyzed until the final grades for the courses have been submitted. Only I and my research a