Exam preparation should be ongoing and start the first week of classes using a variety of the techniques in this site. See the Principles of Learning & Memory and Study Strategy sections for specific learning techniques.
During the course
- Attend all classes.
- Take clear, complete and organized notes.
- Keep up with homework and reading assignments.
- Find at least one study partner in each class.
- Ask for help when you need it (from instructors, peers, tutors).
- Decide where and when you study most effectively.
- Develop an attitude that all study is "exam" study.
Be diligent about ongoing review
- Begin to review the first week of class.
- Review all new material daily and weekly.
- Work at understanding the material fully, not just memorizing it.
- Focus on what the material means and how it can be applied.
- Link new material to previously learned material.
- Frequently test yourself on your knowledge of the material
- Look for the "big picture"− how could this apply to industry or business?
Thorough ongoing preparation is the best remedy for exam anxiety.
Take care of yourself. If your physical, emotional and psychological needs are neglected you will not be able to achieve your full potential.
One to two weeks before the exam
Have a plan for your MAJOR review
- Begin 1-2 weeks before major exams.
- Prioritize what you need to know based on what will be on the exam, the course outline, LOGS (learning outcome guides), and the weighting of each exam.
- Ask your instructor what the exam format will be (e.g. multiple choice, short answer).
- Do a 30-minute overview of each course.
- Create review tools such as checklists, summaries, flash cards or mock exams.
- Plan a realistic schedule for each exam and prioritize according to the exam's weighting and difficulty, as well as how you are doing in the course.
- Gather all resources needed to prepare for the exam (text, notes, complete assignments/labs).
- Do intense review for all the topics on your list; do not just read and re-read the material.
- Practice the tasks you will do on the exam.
- The remainder of your study time should be spent using active study approaches like putting materials in your own words, teaching the material to someone else, making flash cards, using mnemonic devices, and creating visuals such as concept maps or diagrams.
- Review old quizzes, exams, problem questions and chapter-end questions.
- Experiment with different memory and learning techniques to see which works best for you.
- Don't spend much time on what you already know.
- Test yourself frequently to determine what you truly know − recite or write what you know.
- Over learn material − go beyond basic recognition or marginal recall − put material in your own words to ensure genuine understanding − practice applying the material using problems, case studies, etc.
Day(s) before the exam
- Check the location and time of the exam.
- Get adequate sleep and exercise.
- Limit coffee, alcohol, and caffeinated food/beverages.
- Eat well balanced meals.
- Get all you exam tools ready the night before − have them waiting by the door.
- Maintain a positive attitude.
Day of the exam
- Do not try to learn something new hours before the exam; in fact for most students it is best not to study on the day of the exam.
- Be careful not to compare yourself to others or berate yourself for not studying more.
- If you feel overly anxious take steps to relax yourself such as deep breathing or a brisk walk.
- Arrive early but not so early that you get anxious.
- Avoid talking to other students (anxiety spreads).
How to cram (if you absolutely have to!)
- Be realistic. Prioritize and focus on the basics (e.g. chapter summaries, review sheets).
- Cram as close to the exam as possible (but not all night).
- Get some sleep.