- Start early
- Don’t procrastinate
- Know your learning style
- Pay attention and take good notes in class
- Go to office hours
- Do practice questions
- Study with friends
- Take a break once in a while
- Get enough sleep
- Arrive early for the exam
- Be confident that you can kick those exams’ butts
- Read the questions thoroughly
- Give yourself enough time to work on difficult questions
- Double check your answers carefully before submitting
- Additional tip
As easy as that may sound, actually start preparing early for the tests. Starting early doesn’t mean that you have to memorize the whole textbook by the 2nd week of class. It just means that you allow yourself sufficient time to study instead of cramming everything the night before the actual exam. I recommend studying at least a week before the exams. I read in an article that you should in fact start preparing for your exam on day 1 – the 1st day of class, by paying attention and taking good notes in class!
Have a study schedule/plan with the exam dates listed, as well as laying out everything that you need to learn for each subject, including textbooks, class notes, homework, quizzes, practice tests, and supplement materials.
Source: Masland Library Blog
I always fell into the “Oh hey let me just check my Facebook newsfeed for a few minutes and/or watch an episode on this awesome TV show on Netflix before studying for my exams” excuse. Trust me, you will NOT just spend “a few minutes” checking your FB newsfeed. You’ll end up commenting on Instagram photos your friends just posted, messaging people, Snapchatting yourself being stressed out about exams for hours! And don’t get me started with Netflix temptation! Watching one episode can easily turn into seeing the whole series, especially if the TV show is really good and/or if the episode ends with a cliffhanger!
My advice: Actually sign off/ temporarily deactivate all your social media and Netflix accounts on your phone, laptop, tablet. Don’t sign back on until you’ve made some studying progress. Procrastination may help relieve your stress for now, but it will make you feel extremely stressed out and regretful the night before the exams, especially when you haven’t learn anything!
We all have our learning style and study differently. Some of us -the visual learners- prefer to study with diagrams, pictures and bullet points. Others find it most effective to write out all important materials, read through the whole textbook and notes, or memorize out loud. Experiment with different learning styles if you’re unsure to see which method works best for you. Know your learning style allows you to find the best way to study and retain information longer.
Use flashcards, sticky notes, whiteboards, papers, hi-lighters, and colors to aid your study. If you’re worried that handwritten flashcards may be too time-consuming to make, check out flashcard apps such as Study Blue, Quizlet, and Cram, where you can easily find existing flashcards based on subjects and create your own flashcards on your phone or tablet.
I used to have a huge blackboard/wall in my apartment that I used to write important notes, draw diagrams/pictures, as well as plan my schedule and list down my goals. The blackboard not only made my apartment look a lot nicer, but also helped me tremendously with my study.
This one is pretty straight-forward. Go to class (avoid skipping too many classes) and pay attention to the lecture. Don’t just copy down what your professor writes on the board or has on the slides. Pay attention to what the professor is saying, as well as in-class discussions and write down important notes from them. I once had a professor who gave extra credit questions on exams based on what she said in class that wasn’t included the textbook or her posted slides!
For me, I prefer writing notes down on paper instead of typing on laptop or iPad (although typing is much faster than writing) because it helps me to remember the information better and I can draw helpful pictures/ diagrams/ boxes along with my notes. Paying attention and taking good notes in class will help you tremendously in understanding and remembering the materials.
Office hours are a great opportunity for you to meet with your professors/TAs and to clarify on unclear concepts or questions that you may have. Professors usually organize 1-2 days of office hours before the exams, so definitely seek that opportunity and attend their office hours! If you’re too stressed out about exams and/or are concerned about your grade, discuss that with your professors/TAs during office hours as well. They’re there to help and guide you. Attending office hours also shows professors that you take the class seriously and are determined to get high grades. Besides, there’s a much higher chance that you’ll have your questions answered quickly during office hours instead of through emailing, which can take days.
Source: OnlineRTI Blog
This is the most important and useful tip that students tend to forget. Even though you’re busy memorizing all the definitions and formulas, actually take the time to do questions on the practice tests. What students don’t usually realize is that a lot of questions on the real exams are in fact quite similar to those on the practice tests. Some questions are exactly the same! So if your professor posts a sample exam from previous semester, make sure to do each and every single question (and then check the answers), because chances are there will be at least 1-2 similar questions on the exam that you’re going to take. I used to think that practice tests are optional and didn’t do them until I realized I would have gotten a much higher grade if I had spend the time on those sample questions because of how similar they are to the real exam questions!
Some people prefer to study in groups, while others find it most effective to study alone. Regardless of your study habit, try to study with a few friends at least once. When study in groups, ask questions and have your friends ask you questions in return. Being able to explain and articulate concepts will make you more likely to remember the concepts and help with your learning. Don’t study with people who distract you easily though. Choose people who will motivate you and keep you on track.
While it’s easy to think that you will be likely to ace your exam by studying for 6 hours or more non-stop, it’s better if you give your brain a break once in a while. Take a 5-10 minutes break after studying for an hour or so. Instead of burying yourself for hours, relax and re-energize yourself by going on a walk, eating snacks, talking to friends, listening to music, meditating or exercising. Your brain will be able to absorb and retain information a lot better that way.
Source: Speed Sleep
After 4 years of college, tons of exams, and quite a few intense cramming sessions, I realized that pulling all-nighters before exams won’t do you any good. It’s better to get enough sleep and wake up early to study instead of staying up really late (or worse, pulling all-nighters) but waking up exhausted and sleep-deprived. My sociology professor once mentioned that it’s important to get 6-8 hours of sleep 2 days before a test. Studying in advance and having a study schedule/plan will ensure that you won’t have to cram at the last minutes, thus allow you to have enough sleep.
Always arrive at least 10 minutes earlier before the exam and have everything ready, including your ID card, pen/pencil, eraser, calculator etc. Bring extra pens and pencils in case your only pen goes out of ink and you pencil breaks with no pencil sharpener nearby. You don’t want to have to run to get to the exam location on time or freak out because you forget to bring something to write with! Arriving early also allows you to have a few minutes to go over your notes for the last time before the test.
If you have spent time studying and preparing for the test, be confident and have faith in yourself! Believe that you will do fine (even better, do great) and be ready to kick those exams’ butts! If you’re too nervous or stressed out, take a deep breath and say something motivational like “I can do this,” “I got this,” “I can ace this test!”
When taking your exam, take the time to read through all questions carefully and thoroughly. Don’t just glance through and assume that you understand them completely. In a lot of cases, a few misread/ misinterpreted words in the questions can greatly affect the answers. I usually circle and underline keywords and important information in the questions to pay attention to them. If you don’t understand something, ask the professor/exam proctor for clarification instead of guessing.
Read through all the questions will allow you to have a sense of how the test is structured and how you can use your time. Feel free to jump around the test and do easy questions first before tackling harder questions. That way the easier problems will be out of the way, leaving you with sufficient time to work on more difficult ones. If the test consists of different types of questions, I usually work on multiple choices and True/False questions first before proceeding to short answers and essays.
Always double check your answers carefully to see if you may have missed anything before submitting the test. Make sure that you have provided answers to all questions, don’t leave any blank. Never rush to finish the exam, especially when you still have plenty of time to spare. It doesn’t matter if other students finish and leave an hour before time’s up. Focus on your own test and take your time!
If you’re stuck on a multiple choice question, narrow it down to 2 choices by eliminating incorrect answers before taking a guess. Many people said that you should go with your first answer since it’s probably the correct one. If you really can’t decide, just take a wild guess. For short answers and essays, write as much relevant information as you can.
I prefer short answers and essays over multiple choices and True/False questions because even though you can simply guess for multiple choices and True/False questions, if you’re wrong, you’re wrong and won’t get any point. With short answers and essays, however, you’ll at least get extra points even if you don’t have the correct answers.
About Hue La
Hey there, I'm Hue (pronounced “huay”, not “hue” like how you would normally say it in English). I'm a USC graduate and traveler with 6+ years of study abroad experience in the U.S. I founded Study Abroad Corner with the goals of providing helpful advice and building a social network for fellow study abroaders around the world.