Exam Study Tips

Exams are tough, they make up a large part of your final grade and they’re a culmination of all the pop quizzes and homework assignments you’ve ever received. But if you give yourself enough time to study and take advantage of your school’s academic support resources, you’re sure to do just fine. So no need to panic, check out these helpful exam study tips and you can get the A+ you’ve been aiming for!

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Study, Study, Study! 

A key factor in being an excellent test taker is preparation! Going into an exam, confident that you could answer any question because you’ve studied your notes cover to cover, will make your day much less stressful. Whether it’s once a day or twice a week, set aside some time to study and make it part of your schoolwork routine. Pay extra close attention to small details you find difficult to remember; the arrangement of complicated math formulas, important dates in history, how to translate verbs in the future perfect tense, etc. Transcribing your own notes as you re-read textbooks or re-watch lectures also helps with memorization. And reviewing small sections at a time keeps you from being overwhelmed. Here's a short guide on note-taking that could help. What you most certainly want to avoid is cramming the night before. Exam dates are announced weeks, sometimes months, in advance so don’t wait until the last minute. Save yourself the stress, break out the highlighters, and get to studying!

Drop into Office Hours

It’s impossible to know exactly what will be on the exam or all the answers but you do have the advantage of seeking help from the person who does. During your instructor’s office hours, stop by in person or set up a zoom call to gain some insight on what to focus on as you study. Because if there’s anyone that can give you essential pointers it’s the person that put the exam together. Larger class sizes don’t always allow time for student questions during lessons so use this time to receive clarification about any concepts that were particularly confusing. Bring in an old quiz or assignment so that they can pinpoint the cause of any errors you made. Since exams can cover such a wide range of material, it is also helpful to ask what will and won’t be on the exam. That way, you can avoid reviewing information you don’t even need and be able to study more efficiently. 

Find a Tutor

If you’re studying on your own and find yourself struggling to understand sentences you’ve read over and over again, try the one-on-one tutoring approach. Reach out to your school’s tutoring center to get assistance from a tutor that is an expert in the subject. By receiving one-on-one help you can learn at your own pace and be provided with instruction that is tailored to improve your specific weaknesses. And when you work with a peer tutor who’s acing the class or has taken the course already, it gives you the opportunity to learn from someone that shares your perspective as a fellow student. They can provide strategies they used to pass the same tests and utilize teaching methods more compatible with your skill level. 

Study with Friends

Joining a study group can be a great way to stay engaged with your schoolwork. Take a break from flipping through a textbook by yourself in your room. Meet at the library or a common area with other students preparing for the test. Getting together with a few people from class can help you cover more material, encourage you to stick to the study schedule, and create a more relaxed learning experience. You can ask each other questions and compare notes, filling in the gaps in each other’s knowledge. Plus, studying with friends can be fun! As long as you set a couple of guidelines about how to conduct a distraction free study session you can all benefit from leisurely but disciplined group study time. Here's a short video about how to put a study group together. Changing your study environment and working towards study goals with friends can actually keep you more focused and prevent you from “accidentally” meandering over to Instagram. 

Take Practice Tests

When you think you know the answer sometimes the phrasing of a question can still throw you off balance. If they’re available, take a look at the exams from past semesters to become familiar with the format. Will there be all multiple choice questions? Only 5 questions, where showing your work for every step is crucial to earning points? For language classes, perhaps there’s a listening portion? If an archive of old exams isn’t available, try answering questions from your textbook that hadn’t been assigned yet. Search for practice questions online from other teaching sources or educational blogs. You should also time yourself to see if you can answer all the questions within the allotted test taking time. During the real exam you want to finish on time and maybe have a couple minutes left over to check your work, not race against the clock.

Exam Day Prep

Mark your calendar with the exam date/time, set an alarm (or four!), and look out for any updates about the exam schedule. You wouldn’t want to do all that studying just to end up missing the exam because you were late or forgot which day it’s being held. Make sure you’re well-rested and you leave on time with everything you need for the exam. Check your calculator batteries, sharpen your No 2 pencils, and silence your phone. If you get to the exam location a little early you can even run through your notes and flashcards one last time. And if you’re taking a test online, make sure you’ve set up a comfortable workstation where you have a stable wifi connection. The spinning pinwheel or a frozen loading page is not something you want to see in the middle of a final exam.

Once you’ve done all of that, just do your best!