Preparing for Exams 101

Believe it or not, semester finals are nearly here! In light of this, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best practices for preparing for those all-important exams.

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Begin your preparation early!

One of the biggest mistakes students make when it comes to preparing for any test is waiting too long to begin the study process. While teachers may set aside the last week of class (or no time at all!) to review material in class, students should start their own preparation a month before the exam. This allows for slow and repeated review of concepts from early chapters without the stress of cramming. Even setting aside 5-10 minutes nightly for review as part of a homework routine can make a huge difference.

Make up your own exam study guide!

Another beneficial practice in the exam study process is for students to make up their own study guides. While teachers often give review material for exams, a common complaint is that the official study guide doesn’t cover what’s actually on the test. Using tests and quizzes given over the course of a semester, if they’re available, can be a great way to organize the topics that the teacher will likely find important on a final. Breaking that study guide into chapters can also help to turn the exam preparation into steady chewing, rather than last-minute scarfing.

Utilize your resources!

As part of the study process, be sure to use teachers and their materials as resources. Ask questions about unfamiliar concepts. Be willing to stay after class or after school to get extra help, if necessary. Ask about the ideas that the teacher finds most important when it comes to the exam. Generally speaking, when they see students make a genuine effort to prepare, teachers are far more willing to make an effort to get those students the help they need. 

Don’t overdo it!

Be sure to break up the work into bite-sized pieces. One of the reasons that cramming is so stressful (and generally unsuccessful) is that students are attempting to memorize a massive amount of information in a very short time. One tool that can help a student through the study process is the Pomodoro Technique. In short, the idea behind Pomodoro is to work intensely for 25 minutes, then take a short break. Many students work under the misconception that a study marathon equates to success. But attempting to study for long stretches usually results in a less-than-stellar effort and a gradual loss of focus. By breaking the work into shorter bursts and taking the needed mental breaks, students can give their best effort.

Have a plan!

The most important tip of all is for students to plan out their exam study. While it does take a bit of extra effort to plan out a longer period of study for a test, the rewards of good scores and less stress are well worth the investment.

Leave a Reply