Exam Preparation Tips

Exam Preparation Tips

At the point when most of your study is done, and you feel pretty confident about the content of the study materials, it is time to schedule your exam. Even for the best prepared students, actually scheduling the exam can be a nerve-wracking experience in-and-of itself because it is, at this point, that the “test date” becomes a hard reality. This date will become the focus of all your remaining studying efforts. You still need to brush up on your studying, even until the day before the exam, so here are some exam preparation tips to help you.

So let’s get started!

The first of our exam preparation tips – Flash Cards

Consider making flash cards. The student can put pertinent notes on them and keep looking at them, over and over. When they are confident in any one of them, they can put that card in the “I got this” pile and keep working on the others, and keep repeating this process until there are none left.


Word association to aid memory

Another helpful suggestion is to create a word association or some other mental cue to help remember the facts. For example, most of us learned the little phrase in music class, at grade school “Every good boy deserves fun” or “Elvis’ guitar broke down Friday” the first letter of each word starts with the sequential musical note on each line of the upper staff. In addition, the notes in the spaces between the lines spell out the word “face”.

A memorable phrase can help in remembering facts as you prepare for your exam

This is something I have easily remembered for decades, even though I am not a musician. What you ultimately decide to use MUST be something that works for you – a word or phrase, an acronym, an image, or some other little “catchy” thing that you can easily remember. It doesn’t matter how silly. It might even be a little song that you create for yourself.

Read – Write – Hear – Sleep

Studies have found that one of the best methods of studying is to read, then re-read, then write it down, then talk about it with someone else (teach them), then SLEEP. Sleeping has been found to help solidify information that has been taken into the brain (see link below).

Ssshh – keep it quiet

It is also recommended to study in a similar physical situation to that in which you will take the exam. As we know exam locations are (usually) quiet, so it is best to try to study in a similar situation. Some people recommend listening to music while studying, but this author disagrees. Physical situation plays a part in memory recall (“environmental context-dependent memory”). If you study when it is quiet, rather than while listening to music, or the TV, or You Tube, your brain will find it a little easier to recall information under exam conditions, when it is equally quiet.

Probably one of the most important exam preparation tips – Don’t Cram at the last minute

As a side note, we do not recommend leaving everything to the last minute and having a “cram session”. This may appear to aid in immediate memory retention in the very short-term, but the information learned is forgotten just as quickly.

exam preparation tips - don't leave it until the last minute and cram.

Before-the-Exam Tips

  • Firstly, study properly. This gives you the best possible chance of exam success. Make time to do it – it’ll be worth it
  • Plan, in advance, how you will get to the testing center. Plan your journey whether it is by foot, bicycle, public transport, or car. Make sure you know how long it will take to get there and plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early to counter for any potential delays. Stressing about being late is the last thing you need!
  • Eat properly the day before. Don’t skip meals and certainly don’t eat anything that might cause gastric distress the night before. Don’t go out for beer and curry – save that for your celebration of success the night after the exam
  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before. Don’t stay up late. You need to be properly rested and fresh for exam day
  • On exam morning, get up nice and early. Have some breakfast (even if you have “butterflies in your stomach” and feel too nervous to eat). Get yourself ready and leave for the testing center with plenty of time to spare
  • When you arrive at the exam center, with plenty of time to spare. Take a short walk, to help settle your nerves

exam preparation tips - read everything twice

During-the-Exam Tips

  • Prior to initiating the exam, take a moment to settle yourself and take a deep breath. Breathe out slowly and calm yourself. Being stressed out and rushing can significantly lower your chances of exam success
  • Read everything TWICE. Read EVERYTHING twice. I cannot reiterate this enough. So many points can be lost by simply misreading the instructions and/or question. Also, look for clues to the answer in the question – sometimes, on second reading of the question, these clues can suddenly become quite obvious
    Multiple choice questions often test your ability to read carefully. Watch for sneaky words such as “all”, “always”, “few”, “never”, “sometimes”, and “some”. These small words may completely change the context of the question. By reading the question a second time, you increase your chances of noticing these words
  • If you are not sure about which answer is correct, re-read the question a third time. Go with the answer that “feels” right. Don’t second guess yourself. If in doubt, most often, the first instinct on an answer is the right one. (Sometimes, your brain knows the answer even if it doesn’t effectively communicate this to your conscious mind)
  • If you are allowed to skip questions and revisit answers, use that advantage. By going ahead and answering other questions, the answer to the skipped question(s), may become clear because of the context of the following questions. Otherwise you will simply have to make your best guess
  • Watch the clock to make sure you don’t spend too long on any one question/answer
  • When determining the answer for multiple choice questions, first, eliminate the “outliers”: discount any answers that are obviously wrong. Then you can concentrate on determining which of the remaining answers is the correct one (or two, or three, or even five)
  • Don’t forget – sometimes questions ask for multiple answer selections (i.e., A, C, and D). Don’t miss this instruction, because you could be throwing points away

Now you have set the date – create a plan and start working towards it.

Good luck!


Further Reading Links:

Sleeping aids memory: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sleep-helps-learning-memory-201202154265

Context-dependent memory (formal study): https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.3758%2FBF03196157.pdf


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