12 Study Skills for Exam Success

Achieving excellence over mediocrity

The best way to get high grades on an exam is to consider the entire length of your course as a pre-exam, preparation period. Because courses can last a few months to a whole year, you may find it difficult to make the connection between your daily homework, periodic assignments, and your final exam. To get high marks, start by recognizing that all academic work done through the semester, summer, or school year is exam studying.

The strategies below can help you keep pace throughout the year. They will ensure exam success as well as mastery of the subject.

  1. Set your goal: Read the course overview to understand what the course will cover and how it will be scored. Identify your goal in concrete terms and put it in writing to strengthen your resolve.
  2. Manage your time: Time management skills can help you take control of your study workload, achieve more, and stress out less. There are many ways to make time work with you, instead of against you. Purchase an academic diary or study planner. Buy one which provides a week-at-a-glance or a month-at-a-glance view, so you can get a holistic view of the time you have available. Find out assignment due dates and quiz/test/exam dates and mark them in your study planner in advance. This way you’ll be able to avoid social commitments during pre-exam periods. Minimize distractions and keep your priorities straight. Focus on your goal of getting the highest marks possible. Schedule social activities around your study schedule and not vice-versa! Remember this is not only an academic challenge, it’s your job in life right now. Make it a successful and enjoyable year!
  3. Identify your learning style: Take a learning style assessment test and find out if you are a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner. This self-knowledge can help you make more effective use of your time. Remember, your learning style may be quite different from that of family members and friends. Adapting your study method to suit your own natural style will enable you to produce powerful results in less time.
  4. Develop a study plan: For each course, figure out how much time you will need to spend outside of class, in order to keep up and in order to do well. Plan a study schedule that allows you to stay in control of the academic workload.
  5. Keep up with reading: Particularly in college or university, staying up-to-date in terms of your reading is critical to your success. When you attend a lecture without having completed the required reading, you lose a valuable opportunity to add to your understanding.
  6. Develop effective note-taking techniques: A variety of note-taking styles can help you record key information and see the bigger picture in terms of subject matter. Good note-taking strategies can help you make the most of the time spent reading from textbooks and attending classes.
  7. Attend classes regularly: Be an active learner. Attend lectures regularly and participate whenever possible. The interaction will help you to remember more than if you sit passively in class, dreaming of other things.
  8. Create mind maps: Mind maps are graphic organizers, developed by Tony Buzan, which can help you summarize vital information from lectures and textbooks. Each topic can be condensed onto a page; each chapter can be encapsulated onto a larger map. Eventually, you can develop a mind map to review the key sections of each course and get a broad view of how each topic relates to the others. Then, to review before an exam, see if you can reconstruct the map. In this way, you can test yourself to see if you can recall key terms, factors, reasons and examples.
  9. Surround yourself with learning: Create a 24-hour learning environment by putting up review charts and points where you can see them daily – on mirrors, doors, fridge, bathroom, television, or bedside table. If possible, purchase a white board and dry erase markers, so you can test your recall by reproducing the mind maps. Use bright-colored markers, include images to trigger your memory and most of all, have fun.
  10. Work with concentration: It’s in your interest! One hour of concentrated study is worth several hours of distracted study. If you learn how to work with concentration, you will achieve more than 95% of the population. This critical skill enables you to do more in less time and is one of the distinguishing features of super achievers around the world.
  11. Apply memory techniques: Take the time to learn different memory techniques and practice applying them in a variety of academic and professional contexts. Understand the basic memory principles upon which your brain works and learn some tips for improving your memory. The more you exercise your memory muscle, the stronger it will be and the more confidence you will have in your ability to recall information when you need it most.
  12. Use all your intelligences: Are you aware of the concept of multiple intelligences? Do you know it doesn’t matter how smart you are but rather how you are smart? This concept was introduced by Howard Gardiner of Harvard University. It explains the number of different ways in which a human can have intelligence and how this self-knowledge can help us live, work, and study more efficiently.

Study Skills Quiz

Complete the following true or false quiz to check how well you absorbed the information above.

  1. Note-taking styles are pretty much the same.
  2. How long I study is more important than concentrating while I study.
  3. Memory techniques can make it easier for me to do well in exams.
  4. Everyone learns in the same way.
  5. Some people are just not smart.
  6. Putting up posters with review points won’t make any difference to my grades.
  7. Mind maps are an effective way to review and summarize what I’ve learned.
  8. Time can be my ally or my enemy. It’s up to me.

Answers: 1-F, 2-F, 3-T, 4-F, 5-F, 6-F, 7-T, 8-T