If I have to study for an exam, like organic chemistry, I know that I should be studying my notes and, most importantly, practice problems.

However, when you have to review for final that is cumulative, you have to go through potentially hundreds of problems assigned. I understand the best case scenario is that you budget your time throughout the weeks to do them all, but some problems are just repeats of a very simple concept (sometimes with a nuanced variation).

My question is: how do you determine out of all the problems assigned which ones would be the most effective to study for the final/an exam?

  • 3
    Are you saying that they were assigned and you didn't do them, and now exams are coming up so it is time to actually do them now? Or have you done them all previously in the flow of the course? – Buffy Dec 14 '18 at 0:30
  • @Buffy Could be "recommended practice problems". – Anyon Dec 14 '18 at 0:33

Some books list problems that increase in difficulty, so do the first one, the last one and one or two from the middle...


Perhaps the obvious answer, but I would select a random subset, taking about two problems from each section (~20 problems total). In some courses, I would skip the first few chapters (e.g., by the end of a physics course, you probably won't need to review unit conversions or vector addition).

Then I would try to solve this random subset under test conditions. Some of the questions might be too easy or too specific; such questions can be swapped out. But the essential thing is to actually do a few questions from each section end-to-end, don't just think about it, read the answer, and declare victory.

After spending a few hours on the above, you will be in a position to allocate your remaining study hours among the topics.


Ignore the textbook problems and concentrate on the course material. This can be past-year exam papers or simply the homework problems assigned.

Once you're fully familiar with these, you'd have some idea what kind of questions can be expected, and can work through the textbook problems with that knowledge.

  • That's why there's the second sentence. – Allure Dec 15 '18 at 6:25

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