When faced with exams, many students immediately link it with stress, fear, and procrastination. Most of the time, however, exams are unavoidable. Worse still, they may have a possibility of changing your future.
You may wonder: How can I study for exams and perform well in it? Is there any study strategies and study skills that can help me?
Yes, test preparation, studying for exams and taking exams all require strategies. While hard work is crucial, you need to make sure that your effort is put in the right thing in order to maximize your result.
This post is comprised of the best bits and tips I have shared on Students Toolbox that can help you better study for exams and ace it. We hope to help you:
- Study for the right thing
- Use your effort on the right things and minimize time wasted
- Reduce your stress and anxiety when studying for exams
This tutorial talks about:
- Things you need to do before you start studying
- How to make use of lectures and classes to help you prepare for exams
- Study routines and habits you need to have
- How you can maximize the effectiveness of a study session
- Top study techniques to study for final exams
Before You Start
Understand your goals and priorities: How to Set Goals and Achieve Them
Setting your priorities straight will help you know exactly what you need to do during the study session which will then increase your productivity. Studies have shown that we are motivated by tasks that are exciting and have clear end goals.
When you study for exams, you will be setting goals for each of your study sessions. These goals should:
- Comply with your long-term goals and priorities
- Specific: so that your task can have a clear and concrete end goal (e.g. completing two set of notes, making a study guide for a chapter)
Adopt a growth mindset: The Power of the Growth Mindset for Students
The growth mindset can help you have a positive attitude when you study for exams so that you won’t feel discouraged or frustrated. Having this positive attitude can also increase your productivity when you study for exams since you will enjoy working and strive to make progress.
- Believe that you can improve and achieve better result through hard work
- Have confidence in your ability
- Be courageous and don’t let the fear of failures stops you
Learning in Class
This refers to when you are attending classes and learning the information for the first time. Early preparation can really help to ease your stress and reduce the amount of time and effort you have to put into studying when exams are close. Learning effectively in class, therefore, is the key to studying well for exams.
Prepare for your classes: Why and How You Should Prepare for Lectures
By just putting 15 to 30 minutes the day before class to briefly go through the materials for next day’s class, you are preparing your brain for the information you are going to receive. You will then know
- what to expect
- what you are more interested in
- what you are least familiar with
- what questions you may have
This helps you to learn actively and to better understand the things being taught.
Listen attentively during class: 3 Powerful Brain Hacks to Help You Focus in Class
Remember the times when you just get distracted and can’t seem to understand one thing during class? You have wasted the time just sitting in the classroom learning nothing.
Of course, you may read the materials afterward to recap the information and understand it all by yourself, but since you are already in class, why not make use of that 2 hours of class time to learn instead of having to spend an extra 4 hours to study everything yourself?
Your teacher may also mention some things that are more important and may appear in the exam, or maybe even some test-taking strategies! Paying attention is highly beneficial to your studies.
Actively Learn in Class by Taking Notes: How to Take Notes Effectively in Class (feat. OneNote) + Note-taking Printables
If you want to get the most out of your classes, taking notes is very effective as it helps you to:
- Digest the information while listening (so you are understanding the materials rather than merely listening to it)
- Organize the information (so that it makes more sense to you)
- Record the important information during class (so that you can refer to them later on)
Pay attention to the exam skills and answering structures taught in class
One very important reason why you should attend your classes is that your teacher doesn’t just teach you the knowledge you can learn from books, but also some strategies and skills that can help you better tackle the questions. While memorizing all information is important, you won’t be able to get a good grade unless you can apply them well in a structured way. You can have a separate notebook to take notes of all these skills so that you can review them and remember them before the exam.
Actively ask questions
Asking questions does not mean that you are not smart enough.
On the contrary, it’s a reflection of your hard work and your ability to digest the materials. In fact, many students do not ask questions because they don’t understand enough. Other students, who may have studied and learned the materials, may come up with questions because of how much they have read.
If you are not used to asking questions in class, try to encourage yourself to come up with one to two questions before every class, jot them down in your notebook, and go to your teacher after class to ask him/her about it.
Study Routine and Habits
While actively learning in class can help you better absorb the information, studying after class regularly can help you consolidate it so that the information remains in your memory.
Have a regular study routine: How the 1-7-30 Study Routine Helped Me Succeed in School
Developing regular study habits can help you stay on track. Instead of having to force yourself to study when it’s close to an exam, you will be used to studying bit by bit every day. This will greatly reduce the stress you will suffer when you study for exams in finals week.
The 1-7-30 study routine is all about making doing regular previews and revisions. In order to use this system, you will have to:
- Preview your classes by going through the materials and coming up with questions you may have
- Take 15 minutes after class to organize your notes and clarify anythings you do not understand
- Take 15 minutes in the evening to summarize things you have learned that day
- Make a study guide, read the supplementary readings or quiz yourself the weekend after you have learned the knowledge
- Review your notes after a month of learning the information
Learn how to be productive: The Ultimate Guide to Productivity for Students + Productivity Workbook
Productivity is a combination of mindset, attitude, determination, and good habits. You can learn how to be productive by the 8-step productivity system in this article.
Maximize the effectiveness of a Study Session
If you want to have a productive and successful study session when studying for exams, planning and time management is the key. In order to help you better organize your study session and prepare for exams, you can click here to download the study session planner.
Start early and make a study schedule: How to Make an Exam Study Schedule You’ll Actually Stick To + Exam Planner
Many students find it difficult to start early and study for exams months before it starts. But, when it is closer to exam time, many struggles with finishing everything before the exam. Most of us will then tell yourselves that we need to start studying earlier next semester.
But that never happened.
Nonetheless, the benefits of starting earlier are endless. You are likely to suffer less from stress and anxiety, you will be able to study more, and of course, to study everything before the exams.
Use the Pomodoro Technique: Boost Your Productivity with the Pomodoro Technique + Daily Task Planner
Pomodoro technique requires you to focus for 25 minutes, and take a 5-minute short break every after the work session. This is an awesome tool to help you focus, remove distractions, start working and get things done when you study for exams.
Try the Pomodoro technique when you:
- Just can’t seem to get to start working
- Fail to focus and get distracted all the time
- Have a short attention span
While 25-minute work session may work for some people, others may find that a longer or shorter work session is more preferable. Either way, many apps allow you to customize the time for your work session, and I will definitely recommend you to check them out.
Study in the best conditions that suit you: How to Create and Organize Your Study Space
The environment you are in when studying has a huge impact on how productive you are and how well you study for exams. Being in a cafe, when you can only work in silence, will distract you a lot and resulting in a very unproductive study session.
If you are wondering how you can customize (or choose) your study environment, here are some things you can think about:
- The environment: library, cafe, home, office, school
- Background noise: productivity sound, music, silence
Study Techniques for Exams
Create your own study guides: How to Create a Study Guide that Actually Helps
When we talk about studying for exams, many link it with note-taking and making study guides. Making study guides is indeed a great way to help you:
- Consolidate everything you have learned
- Find out what you understand and what you don’t
- Prepare a study material that you can focus on in the later stage of studying
- Memorize key information
Cramming doesn’t work, use association: One Secret to Improving Your Memory for Studying
Cramming is probably the worst study technique when you study for exams. It is frustrating, difficult, and annoying. But worse still, it just isn’t effective.
You may spend 3 hours on cramming a chapter, but you may forget all of them the next day.
So why waste your time? There are better ways to remember things. One major memorization technique is the association technique. Try to associate what you have learned with current knowledge or any memorable things you can think of. If you can’t seem to associate it with anything related, you can use your imagination and create a story or scenario that is going to be unforgettable and link what you have to memorize with it.
Test yourself by making your own quizzes or doing past papers
If you want to learn actively, you will need to test yourself so that you can recall the information and apply into different contexts.
Making quizzes your own is a great way to interact with what you have learned. Alternatively, doing practice papers and past papers can help you better understand the strategies and skills in answering a question, and help you know what are your knowledge gaps. Both techniques allow you to better focus on things you need to improve on when you study for exams.
Study in Groups and teach each other: How to Conduct a Successful and Effective Study Group
Do you know that you can better remember the information if you interpret the knowledge and elaborate it in your own words? And what’s a better way of doing so than teaching others?
By forming a study group, you are able to learn from your peers and find out your strengths and weaknesses. They are very likely to point out (or help you find out) what you know and what you don’t when you study for exams. You can also take the time to teach each other, which will help you to better understand the knowledge and have a stronger impression of it.
If you are working on past papers with your group members, you can also get to solve questions together and find out how one another thinks about the questions. This can help you better formulate your own approach.
Find your professor or TA
One final study technique to help you study for exams is to schedule appointment with your professor and TA before exam time (even when you don’t know what you are going to talk about yet). This is why you should do so:
- Since you have scheduled the appointment, you will feel the sense of urgency to finish studying everything before the appointment and also to come up with some questions to ask your professor.
- This will help you study everything earlier and also harder knowing that your professor will be able to tell whether you have learned what he has taught.
- Your professor is going to discuss with you and mention things that you did not know previously. He may also help you aware of your misconceptions and mistakes that you did not notice previously. This is highly beneficial.
- Of course, your professor can also answer any questions you may have so that you can better tackle your exam.
- You may also ask him about how you can better answer your exam questions, and he may be more willing to talk to you personally regarding some exam techniques that he did not mention with the class.
- Finally, you can write some answers regarding questions on past papers and ask your professor or TA to take a look at it to ensure that you are on the right track.
More exam skills that will help you
Here are some previous articles that cover what you can do right before exams, and also some test-taking strategies.
- Science-Backed Study Tips to Ace Your Exam + Free Checklist
- How to Make an Exam Study Schedule You’ll Actually Stick To + Exam Planner
- How to Study for Exams in a Week
- The Best Ways to Prepare for Final Exams
- Test-Taking Tips and Strategies to Succeed in Exams
- Tips for Taking Multiple Choice Tests
- How to Answer Essay Questions in Exams
Free Exam Study Planner Kit
Need some help to have an effective and successful study session? This exam study kit is perfect to help you:
- Plan your study sessions and keep track of your progress
- Plan your study tasks before finals and start studying early
- Visualize your topics and exam study progress
Click the image below or the button to download the exam study planner kit.
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What’s one difficulty you encounter when studying for exams? Let us know in the comment!