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How to Use Practice Questions

Cartoon of two students asking questions and using flash cards and one student looking confused with a question mark next to her head.

Part Two of our two-part series on Practice Questions covers how to supplement practice questions, how to use practice questions, and where you can find practice questions. 

How do I supplement practice questions?

  • Look for online resources like video explainers. Always look for specific topics. As you watch these resources, try to engage with them. One way I recommend doing this is by trying to summarize those resources after watching/reading/listening to them. This way you are not just passively listening to information but actively trying testing if you are learning the material.
  • Request a tutor or go to a drop-in tutoring session. Having done practice questions before and knowing your gaps can help as you will have a more specific topic or area to discuss with your tutor. Tutors can sometimes even show you resources they have used in the past both for practice questions as well as supplemental materials.
  • Collaborate with other students in your class. We all have different strengths, so you may find that one of your classmates really understands a topic that you are having difficulty with. Additionally, you may understand a topic better than some in your class and, conversely, you can help them in their challenges. Teaching others is a great way of reviewing material, especially material that you already feel comfortable with.

How do I use practice questions to self-evaluate?

  • Group questions by topic and track your confidence and how easy or difficult the question was.
  • Look at the results. How many questions did you get right and wrong? Are there any patterns that you notice? For example, there may be a topic where you got most questions correctly, but you felt they were difficult and maybe it took you a long time to complete them. This can indicate that you want to do more practice on that problem not because you are not getting the answer right but because you want to be able to get through those questions faster during the exam.
  • Track your progress. Once you start improving on a topic make sure to shift your efforts accordingly. You may feel that you need to continue to spend a lot of time on a topic because, at first, you didn’t do well. However, you should evaluate if this is the case as you could be using this time to work on another difficult topic. Practice questions can give us a more objective lens in this area.

Where can I find practice questions?

  • Your professor may give practice quizzes and questions on their canvas shell. Please note that you should be doing more questions than what your professor provides.
  • Most textbooks include practice questions at the end of the chapter.
  • Penn Libraries has a Supplemental Resources Guide that features books that provide practice problems for most STEM courses.
  • Ask your professor or TA for any resources they think are good for practice questions.


Written by Oscar Escudero, STEM Learning Specialist, Weingarten Center

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