Throughout our multiple years of schooling and exam prep , you may have noticed that everyone reacts and handles testing very differently, which is fine. It just emphasizes needing to know what is our own personal exam prep style. Once you know what your study and learning style is, here five tips to help you prepare for tackling any exams in your future.
Our top picks for study tips are 1. organizing your space and methods of learning, 2. vary your study techniques, 3. know what you’ll be tested on, 4. take care of you, and 5. be prepared for exam day.
Regardless of where your go-to spot is for studying may be, if it is at a quiet library, at home in your bedroom, or a public space like a coffee shop, or anywhere else your heart desires, you should organize your space and materials to best suit your habits. Have all your study material accessible and organized in a manner that will allow for easy referencing or cross-checking.
Nothing slows the exam prep process down more than when you have to search for a note or reference to confirm your knowledge; generally you are very likely to get sidetracked or distracted, causing chaos in your studying.
Next, reduce the clutter and distractions around you that are not related to the topic; unfortunately, this may include keeping your cell phone out of reach or turning it off completely. In this technology-rich world, there are definite advantages to having the internet right in your hands all the time, but during study time, social media is not one of them, sorry.
As for the method of learning, organize your day to best match your most productive exam prep study times. If you are a night owl or an early bird, schedule your days to match this. There are no benefits in cramming endless hours of studying when exam prepping if you know your retention during particular hours doesn’t work well with you. Schedule your time so that you aren’t tired when trying to study since this will impact your studying effectiveness.
Get all urgent matters that need to be completed that day, either completed before exam prep or scheduled into your day properly so that you don’t have a nagging feeling adding pressure on you while you are trying to study. The more relaxed you can be while studying, the better it will be for your focus and retention.
Vary your studying techniques
Every individual has their own way of learning, and once you find yours, that is great, but don’t let it be the only way you always study. Don’t be afraid to stray from the norm and try new methods; you may be surprised.
Taking notes and reading may be one way, but try reading it aloud, or drawing it out in a diagram with different colors, create flow charts or flashcards. Sometimes one of these new methods will be the ticket to you learning further information. Certain information may be harder to understand, so having it presented in multiple manners could be the answer to how all the pieces come together for you.
Similarly, don’t rule out the idea of study buddies or groups. Sometimes having others to bounce ideas off of can help you grasp new concepts in a different light. Explaining your answers to others can help you see areas where you may still have uncertainty or highlight that you are confident in that area.
The same is true if others teach you; they may have a very clear and a concise way of explaining a theory that can help you. Multiple heads can usually make the studying and learning process a lot less stressful and pleasant.
Another happy coincidence, you will not be experiencing any FOMO (fear of missing out) since others are in the same boat as you, having an excellent study session 😉
However, make sure that your study group is chosen wisely if the group is causing more of a social event and deterring from the actual studying part, this may not be the correct choice.
A good session should allow you to learn and feel confident with the gained knowledge if this isn’t the case may be more structured to keep everyone on track, or perhaps the participant list needs to be revised to match what works for your study habits.
Know what you'll be tested on
As the cliché states, “knowledge is power,” and in this case, it is very much true, especially when you know precisely what you will be tested on. Refer back to your syllabus/course outline (usually given at the beginning of the course) and note what is listed; it will be a good starting point to know the structure of the material and how it will be weighted.
An example would be if you only spent 5% of the course on a subject, it may be safe to think that maybe one or two questions on the exam will be about that subject matter.
Next, review any notes that you think may be on the exam; it has been known that as instructors are giving their lectures, they tend to highlight critical concepts and may directly say, “this will be on your final exam.” Should you be lucky enough to encounter this and made a note of it, you can ensure you refresh your memory on those areas.
Remember, if you need to, you can always leverage an exam prep service. My recommendation would be PrepScholar, who offer fantastic courses, resources, and mock tests for a variety of standardized test including; SAT, ACT, GRE, and TOEFL.
Also if you need textbooks to assist in your exam prep, there are lots of textbook rental services that offer good quality textbooks at affordable prices and provide a simple process for acquiring and returning books. Some great examples of these services are companies like Knetbooks and also have a look at Cheaper College Books. Both these companies have overall good reviews online and students seem happy on the whole with the customer service they received.
Finally, research to see if there are any old versions of the text or mock sample test that you can get your hands on. Seeing the previous test’s content can provide beneficial insight on key topics and how they will be tested.
Knowing the layout and structure of the exam will give you details on how you should understand the information; for example, essay writing about the material is very different compared to answering multiple choice answers. If you know these details, you can better structure how you review the subject matter. And of course, it doesn’t hurt to reduce the unknown’s anxiety to help boost that feeling of confidence.
Side note, if a past test or a mock test is not available, reaching out to someone or a group of other students who have done the test could be just as good; it should still give the same results as long as the persons provide enough details.
Take care of you
Exam time will always be taxing on you mentally and physically; the key is not to let the stress of exam prep take over your whole life.
Don’t get me wrong, we all know how much it can impact your grade (or even life, if it is a crucial exam like the SATs), but if you let it take over everyday life, overloading yourself with studying may add more stress, and this will hinder your retention. It will feel like there isn’t enough time, but you have to make sure you continue to schedule key things into your day, such as:
Be Prepared For Exam Day
It is almost game day; it is what you have been obsessing over for the last little while, so time to stretch those muscles and show off all your hard work has been for.
To make the most of the day, you want to fully ready for the day. Simple things like knowing the exam’s time and place are vital, but planning for the other things will help keep your day positive.
Do your research, know what the requirements are for the exam, will you need ID, will be bags be permitted into the exam room, how long will the exam be, are snacks and drinks allowed into the room, are bathroom breaks allowed, what materials will I need to complete the exam i.e., do I need a calculator, are they even permitted, etc.?
Gather these details to ensure you can meet the requirements and can focus your energy on the test instead of worrying about any other trivial information that could come by surprise on the day of. The day before the test, make sure to get enough rest and some time to relax and clear your head. On game day, make sure to get to the exam site early, give yourself time to find parking, or locate your exam room.
By this point, you have this exam in the bag; your preparedness and hard work will pay off.
In conclusion, exam day is something we all experience, and we can all understand its importance; however, exams don’t have to be as stressful if we remember and implement these five exam prep tips. We can make it through the process with all our hair intact and to achieve the results we desire.
Be Organized – This includes how you plan your study sessions and your study space, don’t letclutter and distractions derail your studying.
Changing Up Study Tools – Try different study tools, notes, flashcards, charts, and diagrams or even study groups, mixing it up may allow for your brain to retain the information in various manners and help to clarify the subject matter.
Know the subject matter – Know what will be tested and how to look for past exams or reach out to others who have completed the exams by eliminating the unknown; you can ensure you are focusing your energy on the correct areas.
Take care of yourself – Take care of yourself while studying, don’t let the focus be so much on the studying part that you forget to get enough sleep and rest, take breaks and drink plenty of water, and eat proper meals.
Prepare for exam day – And finally, be prepared for the day of the exam, plan your day, so you’re rested, know where to go, have all your materials and of course, don’t forget to breathe, you have got this, and now you can show off what all your hard work was for.
Hopefully, these tips and your hard work will get you the results you are looking for. Good luck with your exams (not that you need it, we know you can do it!) Let us know which of these tips were the most helpful to you or if you have any other information you would like to share!