How to study for an exam

Raise the bar on your test performance

Examinations are serious business and require solid preparation. Just like an Olympic athlete cannot hope to make the grade without lengthy preparation, you cannot expect to get optimum results on an exam with the minimum, last-minute effort. However, by following some simple guidelines, you can achieve your goal of acing any exam.

Study through the year. Mid-term and year-end examinations measure your ability to understand and recall information that was taught over weeks and months. That means you need to study a lot of material. By setting up and following a study schedule throughout the year, you can be very well prepared and can expect to do well. On the other hand, if you squander your time through the year and expect to catch up on a year’s worth of study in a few days or nights, you will not only place yourself under extreme psychological pressure, but also end up with lower marks than you were capable of achieving.

Find out about the exam. Make sure you know all there is to know about the format of your upcoming exam. You should know the length of the exam, the style of the exam (objective, subjective, or both), and which sections are worth the most points.

Listen and look for clues. In the weeks before a mid-term or final exam, your professor will probably drop a lot of hints about what will appear on the exam, so listen carefully in class. Also pay attention to whatever your teacher writes on the board as it may give you clues about what sections of your course are guaranteed to be on the exam. Equally important, listen for what not to study.

Make a study schedule for the few weeks before the exam. Make a list of all your subjects. Divide the amount of chapters you need to cover in each subject by the number of days. Figure out how many hours you have to devote to each subject and each section. Stick to your schedule, no matter what!

Organize your study material. Have all your filed notes, old tests, and textbooks in one place to save time. Clear away unnecessary books and papers from your study area. Take away any non-study related material which could distract you.

Use your strongest learning style. Use your dominant learning style to help you study more efficiently and effectively. For example, create review materials such as recorded tapes if you are an auditory learner. Draw mind maps to outline all the main points, if you are a visual learner. Make up matching cards and games to aid recall, if you are a kinesthetic learner. Learn more about learning styles at this website.

Study alone or in a group. By now, you should know what works best for you. Some people need privacy and silence to concentrate and remember information. Others benefit from the camaraderie of study groups. Try both ways and find out what works best for you.

Use your textbook wisely. Today’s textbooks are designed to help you succeed. Pay attention to headings and subheadings, highlighted sections, key terms and definitions, and review questions. They are designed to draw your attention to the most important elements, which you should know.

Write questions for yourself. Go through all your material and write questions to test yourself. You may be surprised to find a number of similar questions appear on your actual exam. It’s no use reading and rereading material without stopping to find out what you actually recall. If your questions are written on index cards, you can put away those which you can answer correctly and keep practicing the rest.

Practice a lot. After reviewing, spend the majority of time on output activities which test your recall. You could do this by using mind maps, flashcards, mnemonic devices, diagrams, songs or presentations. You could also try to teach someone else the material; it’s a great way to check what you know, understand and remember.

Review regularly. Set up a schedule which allows you to review once and ideally, review again. This enables you to discover what you need to spend more time on and what comes easily to you.

Know practical details. Make sure you know the exact date, time and location of your exam. Mark it in colored marker on your calendar and in your diary. Visit the location in advance at the same hour as your exam is scheduled to take place to get an idea of how long it takes you to get there.

Maintain your health. Nourish your brain during the pre-exam period. Eat the best foods, drink brain-boosting juices and smoothies. Avoid junk food, caffeine, and nicotine. You need all the resources possible to remember vast amounts of information and think clearly during your exam. Feed your brain and energize your body with the best nutrition available.

Avoid cramming. The term cramming refers to stuffing loads of information into your brain in a very short period of time, such as the night before the test. If you follow the strategies on this website, you should not need to cram. If you absolutely have to cram, review only the highlighted info, key vocabulary, and most important topics. Don’t try to cover as much as you might have if you had studied systematically throughout the year, or even in the pre-exam period.

By applying the study strategies above, you should be well on your way to success. Now, good luck on your exam, anyway!