EXAM PREPARATION TIPS Before your exam: Try to get a true understanding of the material you are studying. Ask questions and get clarification about the material while you’re learning it. It is important to make this a priority early on so you will not be confused when you go back to review the material. Avoid cramming. Spread out your study sessions during the days and weeks before an exam to reduce stress and increase your chances of learning all the material you will need to know for the exam. Organization is essential. Be sure to organize both your notes and your study area before you begin reviewing your material. Doing so will maximize the time and effort spent studying the material before an exam. Summarize your notes. For the average test during the semester, you should have 3-5 pages of key terms, concepts, and other material. Diagrams, charts, and maps are also beneficial for understanding key concepts. You may want to create your own flash cards or outlines to assist in summarizing and reviewing the material. Study old tests. If you have the opportunity to get prior exams back from your instructor, pay close attention to the questions and overall format of the exams. Reviewing this type of material gives you a glimpse into how your instructor prefers to test his/her students on the course material. Are the questions in multiple choice, matching, or essay format? Also pay attention to the overarching concepts and themes you have been tested on. Ask your instructor about the exam’s format. In addition to providing this information, instructors oftentimes hint to students which concepts, principles, and theories covered during class will be on the exam. Teach the material you’re studying to someone else. If you can teach the material to someone in your study group, your roommate, or even a pet, you will remember it better. You will also gain confidence in your ability to understand and articulate the material. “Over Learn.” It is always better to know too much than too little. This also is useful if you want to “wow” your instructor on short-answer and essay questions. Sleep! Which is better – studying all night but being too tired to remember anything, or sacrificing a little bit of studying for the ability to be rested and remembering everything you studied? Eat well. Watch your caffeine and junk food intake. Even though these foods may give you instant energy, it will not last long, and
you oftentimes feel worse once you come down from your energy buzz. It’s better to eat small, frequent, high protein meals instead. Arrive to class early on the day of the exam. This will give you time to pick a comfortable place to sit, as well as get all of your test materials ready and ask your instructor any lastminute questions. During the exam: Try to get the ‘big picture.’ Quickly read over the whole test before you start. Know which sections will be more difficult or take longer for you, and plan accordingly. Relax! Be sure to take a deep breath whenever you feel yourself getting overwhelmed or stressed. Do a “mind dump.” If there is information in your head that you’re afraid you will easily forget, jot it down somewhere on your test so you can focus on other things. Be strategic. Answering the easy questions first will help you calm down if you are having a difficult time doing so at the beginning of an exam. You can even use these questions, which are oftentimes in true/false or matching formats, to help spark your memory to assist you in answering more difficult questions. Keep an eye on the clock. Be aware of how much time is left to complete the exam and plan accordingly.
After the exam: If your instructor reviews the exam after grading it, pay attention to your strengths and weaknesses and turn this into an opportunity for you to learn from your mistakes. As mentioned earlier, reviewing previous exams can help you prepare for future tests. However, if you are not able to keep your previous exams, try to jot down some notes during your review of the exam in class so you can use this information to prepare for future tests. Reference Stevens Taylor, C. (2007). Peer mentor handbook: Introductory liberal studies colloquium fall 2007. Unpublished manuscript, University of North Carolina at Asheville.