How to prepare for an exam

Having been in university for almost a decade, I can confidently say that I can count on one hand the amount of times I have ever heard someone say that they enjoyed an exam. The thought of being confined to a room for two to three hours, whilst you rack your brain to remember everything you’ve learnt over the last few months is enough to make anyone nervous, so I thought I’d share six (6) tips I’ve learnt over the years that help make exams a bit more bearable…dare I say even mildly pleasant!

  1. Attend Classes

Actually going to your classes and not sleeping in is crucial, simply because lecturers usually only test on material they have actually taught in class. Also, your lecturer will often subtly give exam tips throughout the term saying things like “focus on this chapter”, “you’ll definitely be tested on this”, or “we won’t be covering chapter 11 in detail” etc. These tips let you know what to study and what not to ‘waste’ time revising.

  1. Ask for tips

At the end of the term ask the lecturer if they have any tips or can offer any direction regarding the exam. You can also approach your tutor/Teaching assistant for tips as these are usually PhD students and so they sympathise with students. Finally, ask students in the years above you who have taken the course if they have any advice regarding topics to focus on, type of questions the lecturer is likely to ask etc.

  1. Study the text

Go through the course textbook and try to determine what is testable, i.e. what would make a good essay question or good multiple choice questions. Also, always read the practice questions they put at the end of a chapter as these highlight the key topics and concepts that have been covered in the chapter.

book-reading-library-literature-159697

  1. Review past exam papers

If possible get your hands on copies of past exam papers for the course. Some universities publish these, but if your university doesn’t you can ask students in the years above you or approach student societies e.g. Ask the management society for business past papers. Reading past papers gives you an idea of what to expect and can help you feel more prepared and less anxious!

  1. Organise a group study session

Even if you prefer to study alone, just one group study session allow you to see what your peers are studying. A group session can offer direction and your friends can remind you to focus on topics that you may have previously overlooked. Your classmates can also help explain complex topics that you may not have fully grasped and in the end you will all help each other to better understand the material.

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  1. Learn your study style

Everyone has a different method for studying that works for them. I always had to take copious notes, then convert those notes to point form on cue-cards that I carried with me up until I went into the exam room. Others, like my sister, have a photographic memory and just had to re-read the text while highlighting key points in bright colours (lucky gal!). The point is that there is no ‘correct’ way to study, you just have to play around with different techniques until you figure out what works best for you.

I hope all of these tips help you in preparing for your upcoming exams. Let me know if you have any additional tips/tricks that work for you in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by!

Dr Gabi

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