Quick Tips for Taking Exams
For quick tips on exam preparation, check out the following resources.
Review Notes and Materials: Repetition is the key to remembering content.
- Conduct short daily review sessions. You can ease into a more intense review session prior to major exams.
- Read text assignments before lectures. This will help you identify concepts that the professor considers important and that are already somewhat familiar.
- Review notes immediately after lectures. This will help you identify information that you do not understand while the lecture is still fresh in your memory–and other students’ memories as well. When you review immediately, you’ll have time to clarify information with other students.
- Review with a group. This will enable you to cover important material that you may overlook on your own.
- Break up the study tasks into manageable chunks, especially during major reviews prior to exams. Studying three hours in the morning and three in the evening will be more effective than studying at a six hour stretch. Studying while you are mentally fatigued is usually a waste of time. Study the most difficult material when you are alert.
Overcoming test anxiety
Most students experience some level of anxiety during an exam. However, when anxiety affects exam performance it has become a problem. Outside pressures success/failure consequences (grades, graduation), peer pressure, competitiveness, etc can cause testing anxiety.
Cramming Techniques for Exams
Cramming for exams should be avoided at all costs. You should only cram for an exam as a last resort. It’s hard to take in and retain a large amount of information in a short period of time. Some of the tips on studying and preparing for a test may overlap with the cramming techniques below.
- Eat some food to give you energy to study but avoid consuming excess sugar which will make you hyper and will make it more difficult to study. An apple does a better job at keeping you focused and awake than caffeine.
- Find a well-lit place with no distractions around to study but don’t get too comfortable or you may fall asleep.
- Since your time is limited, you have to choose what you study. Don’t attempt to learn everything, focus on things that will get you the most points on the exam. Focus on the main ideas and learn key formulas. Skip the details for now and only come back to them if you see that you have time after you have learned the key points.
- Highlight the important points in your notes, and text and focus on that.
- Read the chapter summaries (they usually do a good job at summarizing the important points). If there’re no chapter summaries then skim through the text and write down key ideas.
- Study from past tests, review questions, homework & review sheets.
- Take at least one five minute break an hour so that you can gather your thoughts and let your brain relax.
- If time permits, try to get at least 3 hours of sleep (one sleep cycle) before the exam so that you don’t fall asleep when taking your exam. Don’t forget to set your alarm!
Test preparation to reduce anxiety:
Approach the exam with confidence: Use whatever strategies you can to personalize success: visualization, logic, talking to yourself, practice, team work, journaling, etc. View the exam as an opportunity to show how much you’ve studied and to receive a reward for the studying you’ve done.
Start: Organize what materials you will need for the test.
- Read the directions carefully.
- Budget your test taking time.
- Change positions to help you relax.
- If you go blank, skip the question and go on.
- If you’re taking an essay test and you go blank on the whole test, pick a question and start writing. It may trigger the answer in your mind.
- Don’t panic: when students start handing in their papers. There’s no reward for finishing first
Relax: If you find yourself tensing and getting anxious during the test:
- Relax; you are in control. Take slow, deep breaths.
- Don’t think about the fear. Pause: think about the next step and keep on task, step by step
- Use positive reinforcement for yourself: Acknowledge that you have done, and are doing, your best.
- Expect some anxiety. It’s a reminder that you want to do your best and can provide energy. Just keep it manageable.
- Realize that anxiety can be a “habit.” It takes practice to use it as a tool to succeed.
After the test, review how you did. List what worked, and hold onto these strategies. It does not matter how small the items are: they are building blocks to success.
- List what did not work for improvement.
- Celebrate that you are on the road to overcoming this obstacle.
- Check out local centers and resources in your school for assistance, ie The Learning Center.
Resource found on the following website: http://studygs.net/
Testing Taking Resources
by Leeds University
This tutorial, developed by Leeds University, will guide you through the key stages of preparing for exams, and takes about 30 minutes to complete. The sections below include advice and activities on all areas of exam skills.