Author: Sean Qi, BCom 2018
Year course was taken: 2014W
Final mark obtained in course: 91

For first-year students especially, the thought of taking statistics for the first time can be terrifying. Because COMM 291 covers much more material than COMM 290, there are moments when the class feels overwhelming and downright difficult. However, from personal experience, I actually found 291 to be easier than 290. Even though there are similarities between the two courses, there is one important difference – COMM 291 has an OPEN-BOOK midterm and final exam. I repeat, OPEN-BOOK. For the COMM 291 exam, you can bring the textbook and handwritten/printed notes to the exam room. You can also use Microsoft Excel and a graphing calculator. As such, you don’t necessarily need to be a statistics wizard to be successful in this course. By creating and bringing the right resources to both examinations, you can still survive this class with an elementary understanding of the subject.

1. Take good notes.

Because the textbook is several hundred pages in length, searching for answers in the textbook during the exam is a recipe for disaster. Taking clear, well-organized notes in class does an excellent job of condensing the course material into a more manageable format, and helps you identify important and tricky concepts that can be tested. My notebook was one of the first resources I turned to when a difficult question came up on the exam.

Another helpful tip: COMM 291 is a course where you should be handwriting your notes, as you occasionally need to draw graphs and write down intricate formulas. You can’t do that efficiently in Word.

2. Learn how to use Excel.

Although you can complete a 291 exam without using Excel, it is not recommended. Using Excel functions to find exact P-values, critical values, etc. is faster than looking up the exact same information using the stat tables provided at the back of the textbook. Complete the homework assignments to familiarize yourself with Excel, and make sure that you save each spreadsheet you create, since students are allowed to view and edit ANY spreadsheet during the exam. Exploiting this rule, some of my friends created “Excel Formula Sheets” for the exam to accelerate calculations involving Excel functions. Speaking of formula sheets…

3. Make your own formula sheet.

There are MANY formulas in COMM 291, and sometimes it is hard to keep track of them all. To remind yourself of formulas, Excel functions and other important details (like the GUTS table for example), create YOUR OWN formula sheet for the exam. I strongly believe that creating your own handwritten formula sheet is better than using a formula sheet from a prep booklet. Not only is it easier to use (because you know where you put everything), making a custom formula sheet yourself is essentially studying, because it forces you to revisit many important concepts before the exam.

To ensure that your formula sheet is helpful, rather than a liability, CMP will provide a checklist that will help you create a comprehensive formula sheet on your own. Your formula sheet should be relatively concise, as it is intended to guide you through calculations. For more conceptual questions and T/F questions, look at your notes. 🙂

4. Complete all the homework assignments.

Bringing the right tools to the exam room is only half the battle. You also need to understand how to use these tools correctly. Even though the tests are open-book, studying is still important and should not be overlooked.

Because COMM 291 is content-heavy, examples and word problems are usually not covered in class. However, Jonathan Berkowitz likes to test individual chapters on his exams by creating word problems with multiple parts. These problems can trip you up unless you practice, practice, practice. Completing each homework assignment gives you an opportunity to practice difficult concepts, like Chi-Square Tests and Multiple Regression, with questions that accurately simulate what you might encounter on the exam.

5. Take advantage of Berkowitz’s exam packages.

Jonathan Berkowitz makes the midterm and final for all COMM 291 sections, and uploads midterms and finals from previous years to prepare students for his exams. This year, Berkowitz’s exam packages contained four practice midterms/finals and an assortment of miscellaneous practice questions, complete with answers and notes that explain why each answer is correct. Because the samples provided are midterms and final exams that Berkowitz created in the past, completing them prior to your 291 midterm or final is perhaps the best way to study for them. Writing these practice exams makes the midterm and final more predictable by giving you a better idea of exam length and difficulty, and helps you focus your studying by indicating the areas you struggle with personally.

6. Bring a good calculator to the exam. No further explanation needed.

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