Exams and tests are the most challenging aspects of studying in college. There is so much to learn and remember, and that can be really stressful, especially if you have to take several exams in different classes. But knowing how to properly prepare for your exam can relieve your anxiety and help you get a better grade.
In this article, you’ll find easy exam tips that will help you to study smarter, not harder, and excel in your academics. Some of them sound more like “common sense” and relate to the importance of self-care. Other tips are related to effective and proven study strategies.
But keep in mind that not all techniques work for every student, so the best approach is to experiment with these essential study tips to find out which of them work best for you.
Make the Most of Your Study Time
It’s critical to start your exam preparation early – about 4 weeks before exams. Then you’ll have ample time to review all study material. It’s a bad idea to leave something for the last moment, so you need to make a study plan and stick to it. It will help you manage your time effectively.
Create a timetable – note down what exams you have to take and specify dates for each of them. Then create your study schedule.
Start with making a list of topics you need to cover and set specific dates when you plan to cover them. Figure out how much time you’ll need to study every day to stay on track. Keep in mind that some subjects and some topics may require more time and effort.
Studying regularly each day will help you avoid cramming the night before your exam. After all, pulling an all-nighter isn’t an effective strategy for memory retention, and it can’t guarantee you a high grade. You’ll also feel tired and stressed when sitting for your exam.
Organize Your Study Space
It’s important to find a quiet space for studying. Different people have different preferences – some like to study at home, while others prefer a café or a library setting. You should choose an environment where you’ll be away from distractions and feel most comfortable and productive.
Before you start a study session, you should also make sure you have enough space to put your textbooks and notes and organize all your study materials. You need to have a complete set of course notes and copies of visuals and handouts.
Set Study Goals for Each Session
Setting clear realistic goals allows you to track your progress. It’s important to set highly specific and manageable goals, for example, to revise the material of certain chapters in your textbook and summarize it, to learn the concept of particular lectures and create flashcards for them, etc.
During your study sessions, you should revise topics one by one, and when you finish one topic, take a few minutes to make sure you understand everything. Keep in mind that some areas may need extra revision.
Don’t spend much time on one subject or topic – it may lead to learning fatigue. Instead, you should change topics every hour or so and revisit challenging ones after some time to give your brain a break.
Visualize the Material
An effective technique for revising the material is highlighting and underlining the keywords, important points, and concepts in your study notes and textbooks. It’s easier to remember something you have written. Don’t like taking notes? Try other visual techniques, such as outlining, mind mapping, creating diagrams, graphs, and charts. They will help you better understand complex concepts and quickly recall everything you need to know. You can also rewrite important definitions, facts, and concepts on flashcards.
Explaining something to other people is one of the best ways to determine what you have learned and what you need to take a second look at. You may organize study groups with other students and take turns to explain each other difficult concepts. You can also tell about what you have learned to the members of your family. If you can explain a topic to other people, you probably understand it. A good idea is to ask your friends and family to quiz you on each subject.
Practice Old Exams
Old tests can serve you as examples of what to expect during your exam. You will become familiar with the structure and format of the future test and will know the right types of questions you’ll have to answer.
The best approach is to time yourself when you practice past exam papers. This way, you can have a better idea of how much time you spend answering questions in each section.
Many people think that multitasking is a great way to do a lot of things at once and achieve more. But that is far from the truth.
Don’t try to manage several tasks at once because our brain can handle effectively only one thing at a time. Multitasking is actually task-switching, and it can cause mental blocks and slow down your brain, decreasing productivity. Some researchers suggest that multitasking can reduce productivity by about 40%.
That’s why you should turn off your cell phone to remove distractions of text and social media, and put away any books and objects that you don’t need during a study session. That will allow you to focus your attention on one thing at a time.
Take Regular Breaks
You should develop a routine that fits your study style. But it would be a bad idea to study for long hours. This approach may leave you with no energy. You need to take regular breaks to allow your brain to regain its focus.
When we study, our brains consume glucose. That’s why it’s better to take a 10-minute break every hour to let your body produce some fuel. Then, you’ll work more productively. And if you force yourself to study when your mind is sleepy or not active, you will only make it more exhausted.
Use short breaks for exercising or stretching. You can also go out and walk around or get a drink. Exercising will provide extra oxygen for your brain, and you’ll feel more energized.
Take Care of Yourself
You will be able to work more productively and achieve more if you take care of your physical and mental health. That means you should develop healthy lifestyle habits. Here is what you should pay attention to.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Surviving on junk food during exam preparation to save time is not a good strategy for studying. You need to keep a balanced diet that fulfills all of your nutritional needs and fuels your body and brain. It should include foods from 5 groups:
It’s also important to drink plenty of water and help your body stay hydrated. According to research, just 300ml of water can boost attention by almost 25%. Besides, staying hydrated during exam season can have a positive effect on your cognitive abilities, motor skills, and even your mood.
Get Enough Sleep
Most adults need about 7 or 8 hours of good sleep each night. It’s just as important for your health as eating right and exercising. Besides, according to studies, good sleep can enhance memory performance and improve problem-solving skills. On the other hand, sleep deprivation impairs brain function.
That’s why it’s absolutely essential to have a good night’s sleep before any exam. It will help your brain remember what you have studied, and you’ll feel refreshed and well-rested.
It’s an effective stress management technique that teaches us to pay attention to the present moment by observing our feelings and thoughts without judging whether they are bad or good. Mindfulness is a proven tactic to improve our mental wellbeing. You may start with easy mindfulness exercises, such as paying attention, accepting yourself, and focusing on breathing.
Periodic rewards after blocks of study will help you stay motivated and encourage you to make that extra effort to stick to your goals. It all comes down to psychology. When a certain behavior is followed by a pleasant outcome, people are likely to repeat that behavior.
If you’ve studied conscientiously for several days, you should take some time to relax before getting started with your work again. Reward yourself by doing something you really enjoy, for example, go shopping, go for a run, or hang out with friends. And if you don’t want something active, you may read a book just for pleasure or watch your favorite TV series. “Down” time when you are not studying will help you avoid excessive stress.
Exams are inevitable for students, and they can be tough. But you should remember that with little strategic planning and a positive attitude, you can get the most out of your study sessions. If you start revising earlier and give yourself enough time to study, you’ll feel less anxious and stressed. Follow our easy tips to prepare effectively, and you’ll be able to show up for your exams stress-free and confident.