Want a Good Grade? Focus on These Study Hacks for Exams

exam study hacks

Hey everyone! Ibrahim here. I’m a business analyst and consultant, but also an international student who is looking for an opportunity to apply for a Master’s Degree in the U.S. During my educational journey, I learned some study hacks. One of them is a principle I still follow today: study smart, not hard. 

I’m excited to share my personal experience preparing for my midterm exams. I’ll be telling you about exam hacks and important tips and facts that every student should know about effective midterm exam preparation. Hopefully, my experience can help you prepare for exams and achieve success you are looking for. 

Recollection of My First Midterm Experience

I remember clearly the first time I was preparing for midterm exams. I was confused and didn’t know where to start. It took me too long to understand the material and I was overwhelmed with workload. Due to this, I became stressed and started procrastinating. Back then, I wished someone more experienced would give me some tips and advice on how to study more efficiently. 

My first midterm exam didn’t go as well as I hoped. Moreover, I felt very tired because stress, lack of sleep, and too much caffeine negatively affected my well-being. But I learned from my mistakes. I realized that to do well on midterms, I needed to understand the exam format and create a study schedule. In addition, my first preparation for midterm exams taught me that self-care is no less important than studying, so I don’t waste my time on unnecessary details, focusing only on the most important aspects.

With some practice, I discovered some studying techniques and study hacks for exams that worked for me. By the time I took later exams, I felt more confident and prepared, which was reflected in my grades. I know that many students once were in my shoes, and many more will experience same struggles as I did. Thus, I’m sharing my study hacks, hoping they will help students to save time and efficiently prepare for exams.

Study Hacks to Improve Your Productivity

Create study schedule

Study schedule is very important for effective learning because it helps manage time and be more organized.

The use of time management tools and study schedule allowed me to set priorities and prevented me from procrastination.

The first time management tool I started using for exam study was Google Calendar. This tool helped me schedule my study sessions and set reminders for deadlines. Later, I also used Todoist to keep track of my daily tasks and decide which ones were most important and needed to be done first.

Using task management tools is an exam preparation hack that can save you a lot of time and help you stay organized.

Avoid distractions

Another simple yet effective study hack is to avoid things that distract you. Before you avoid them, you should know them, so start by making a list of things that distract you. Then, you should make a plan on how to avoid these distractions when studying for exam.

The top-3 things that distract me the most are ads, noise, and Instagram.

When I try to read something online, ads can pop up unexpectedly and break my concentration, so I use add-blocks to avoid such distractions. Noise is another huge distraction for me, and even noise-canceling headphones don’t help when I study for exam in public spaces. In this case, I listen to instrumental music or white noise to stay focused. Finally, Instagram is a major distraction to me since constant scrolling can interrupt my work and steal valuable time. To avoid this, I keep my phone away from me when I study.

Schedule regular breaks

One of the major mistakes I made when preparing for my midterm exams was skipping breaks. However, I understood that it might result in stress and burnout. I used to study for exams without breaks for hours even though I felt tired. As a result, I felt stressed, which led to a decline in productivity. By making such a mistake, I realized that taking scheduled breaks during exam preparation is an important study trick. It can save time in the long run by helping to prevent burnout and maintain focus. Taking breaks can help you stay refreshed, maintain your energy level, and recharge. Therefore, scheduled breaks can make your exam studying more effective and efficient. 

Try different study environments

During exam preparations it’s essential to establish a reliable network of memory cues. The more places are involved into your preparations, the greater are the chances that you’ll recall the information faster at the exam.

While many students underestimate the importance of this factor, the environment can become a key factor in successful exam study. Different people prefer studying in different surroundings, so you should experiment with different study environments. At first, I only studied in my room, but then I realized that studying in library makes me more concentrated.

Meanwhile, my friend kept getting prepared for the exam in his room because he felt more comfortable there, and that’s alright. I also found out that I enjoy studying outside, especially in the park. You can also try studying in other public spaces, such as coffee shops. Overall, finding a suitable environment is a crucial study hack that can help you improve your focus and memory.

Study Hacks and Tricks for Memory

After my first midterm exam, I realized that I had learned a lot of insignificant facts and forgotten several important concepts. It made me understand the importance of memory tricks, which are crucial study hacks that can help you get engaged with material more actively. Memory tools can help you make a connection between what you learn and what you know, which is essential in studying for exams

  • Take revision notes. Writing down the most important points of what you’ve learned can help you remember and understand the information better. Moreover, this study hack can help you avoid getting sidetracked by unnecessary details. 
  • Use highlighters. By highlighting concepts important to your exam study, you can quickly identify them when reviewing the material later on. 
  • Make flashcards. Another effective study trick that can help you repeat and recall information is flashcards. You can even use them to quiz yourself by writing down questions on one side of the flashcard and an answer on the other. 
  • Make your notes harder to read. Of course, I don’t suggest you write your notes the way you won’t understand them. If you take your notes digitally, you can use a font that is slightly more difficult to read. This simple study trick can make it easier to focus.
  • Speak out loud. This simple study trick can help you identify areas you are struggling to remember and need to focus on. Additionally, speaking out loud can make you more confident about your knowledge.
  • Repeat the material. Using this approach during exam study is inevitable because it reinforces memory. To make this study hack more effective, you should try to pre-test yourself to understand what you remember well and what you should focus on more.
  • Look for additional sources. When you have difficulties understanding study material, you should look for explanations in additional sources. Watching lectures on YouTube helped me study for exams because they made the material easier to understand.
  • Study with friends. This simple study hack can be helpful for many reasons. Studying with friends can keep you motivated and help you avoid distractions. Moreover, your friends can explain their perspectives on difficult concepts and help you better understand them. Finally, friends can make exam study a more enjoyable process. By supporting each other, you can make studying an easier and less overwhelming process.

Care For Yourself 

exam stress

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is no less important for your educational performance than study hacks for memory and productivity described above. Proper sleep is crucial for your productivity, and I got it from my own lived experience. Studying hard to prepare for my midterm exams, I wasn’t sleeping enough, so I always felt tired. Caffeine helped me stay awake but not active or productive. I felt that my memory didn’t serve me well because I couldn’t memorize crucial concepts from my exam study.

Moreover, lack of sleep made me stressed and irritable because I couldn’t concentrate on anything. When I changed my attitude toward sleeping and resting, I became much more productive. Learning from my own mistakes, I realized that by sleeping and resting, I am not wasting my time – I am recharging.

I must say that rest doesn’t necessarily mean lying and doing nothing. Aside from sleep, the most effective way to let your brain recharge during exam study is by exercising.

After jogging, swimming, or spending time in gym, I felt really energized. To be honest, exercising is my favorite study hack because nothing makes my brain more active, sharp, and focused than physical activity. Aside from that, I realize the importance of a proper diet. You might have heard that Omega-3s play a crucial role in brain activity. Knowing that, I included various products containing these nutrients, such as salmon, tuna, walnuts, and chia seeds. However, brain also requires sugar to work properly, so I treat myself with candies and cookies. Remember, maintaining health is the most crucial study and life hack.

Exam Hacks

I’ve already shared all my study hacks, so now it’s time for me to tell you about exam hacks! You might study both hard and smart and be prepared for your exam but still not perform as well as you expected. That’s because you might feel tired, anxious, or lose track of time. To maximize your performance, you just need to remember a few simple exam hacks.

  • Get a good night’s sleep before exam. As I mentioned before, proper sleep makes you more productive and helps you concentrate, which makes a good night’s sleep an important exam hack. Aside from that, good night’s sleep can help you consolidate your memories, so make sure you slept for at least 7 hours before your exam. 
  • Don’t skip your breakfast. That’s a very simple yet important exam tip. If you won’t eat you’ll be probably thinking of food, not about your exam.
  • Get to your exam venue early. Another important exam tip is simply not to be late for your exam. Otherwise, you’ll be stressed, which will make it harder for you to concentrate and perform well on your exam.
  • Use relaxation techniques. Anxiety can reduce your concentration during exam. In this case, exam hack that might be helpful for you is using relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. 
  • Wear a watch. It is the simplest exam tip that can help you keep track of your time. Being sure that you have enough time to complete your tasks will make you feel more confident.


exam feeling

Education is a challenging but interesting journey that opens up new opportunities. Although you might face difficulties when studying, you can simplify this journey by using simple study hacks. My very first midterm exam was a stressful but important lesson that taught me to value my time and energy. By analyzing my mistakes, I made some important conclusions, which led me to create a list of study hacks and tips. I’m glad that now I can share my experiences with new generations of students who might find these tips useful. I hope my hacks can help you achieve the desired outcome. And remember: don’t study hard – study smart. Good luck!

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Ibrahim Hiary
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A proud native of Abu-Dhabi, Ibrahim is now a happy citizen of Washington D.C.. He takes active interest in the work on international NGOs and works his way to applying for a Master’s Degree in Business in the USA. Currently he is doing his internship at one of the Big Four companies.