If you’ve got a big exam coming up, you probably want to nail it but you might not know what approach to take. Studying for an exam isn’t like writing an essay, or completing an assignment. A simple way of thinking about exams is that they are designed for you to show your teachers that you understand the concepts that have been taught to you, and you know how to apply them to various scenarios. With the right preparation, there’s no reason you can’t ace it. Keep reading below to learn how to prepare for your exams.
How to Begin Your Prep.
Start by thoroughly reading the details of the exam. This will help you organise the way you’re going to revise. Make sure you understand:
- Which parts of the course will be included
- What content you need to revise
- The date of the exam and how long it will go for
- What materials you can take in
- If it will be open book, or if you’re allowed to take any study notes in
- What percentage of your grade it will be worth
Once you have a list of what you need to know for the exam, you can start planning which topics need the most attention. There’ll always be sections that you understood really easily when they were taught to you, and sections you didn’t give as much attention. Try to even out your understanding of the course, catching up on areas that you’re not as confident with.
Find your perfect study spot
What works best for you? Some people work well in libraries, others cafes. Maybe you concentrate best in your bedroom with the door shut. You have to be honest with yourself, choose the place where you know you will get the most work done. This might not necessarily be where your friends all go to revise.
Make a plan
Now that you know what the exam will entail and when it is, you have a rough idea of how much work you need to put in and what the work will consist of. Formalising this rough idea on a piece of paper, or a wall calendar
Evaluate what kind of learning style suits you best
Think back on your years of schooling to what kind of teaching methods really worked for you. Did you enjoy reading, or listening to presentations, or building models? There are three main styles of learning: auditory, visual and kinaesthetic.
Auditory learners are best able to grasp new information through listening. If you think this is you try reading information aloud, or recording yourself and playing it back. You’ll also benefit from discussions with other students.
Visual learners learn with their eyes. Make ample use of highlighters, diagrams, videos and drawings.
If you’re a kinaesthetic learner you will learn by doing. Get up on your feet! Exercises like role-play, debating, building a model and mind-mapping will give you the best results.
If you’re not sure which style suits you best get online and take a quiz. It may be that you’re responsive to a few different learning styles, don’t be afraid to mix it up. Whatever works for you.
Study as often as you can
The more often you revise the better chance you give your brain to understand and store information. Think of it like your favourite music, if you listen to a song every day for a few weeks by the end you’ll know it off by heart. Every few days develop a fresh page of study notes that you keep in your back pocket. When you’re on public transport or in a waiting room or you’ve just woken up, give it a quick read.
Use your phone as a resource
It might sound counter intuitive because phones can be a huge distraction but they’ve also become a really useful tool for study. Set alarms to remind you to hit the books. There are also a huge number of apps dedicated to exam preparation and study techniques. Have a look around and find a few that look like they’ll be of use to you. Putting your phone on flight mode helps to elimate distractions entirely. It’s likely study apps will function on flight mode, and alarms certainly will, so switch off your connectivity for a little while when you need to focus.
Ask for help when you need it
When you’ve been working away at something and you just can’t make it click there’s no harm in reaching out and asking for help. There’ll always be a teacher or a friend who knows how it works and is happy to show you. The same applies to stress and pre-exam nerves. Everyone, no matter how much study they might have done, will feel nervous as well. If you’ve got a friend taking the same course it can be really helpful to you both to have study sessions together where you quiz each other.
All work and no play isn’t sustainable. The good news is an integral part of memory production in your brain involves good sleep! Make sure you’re sleeping, socialising, eating and exercising. This will make every study session a good session, because your body and mind will be feeling up to it. If you slog away at exam prep for hours on end without proper breaks, you’ll stop learning anything.
Look at past exams
Especially for Year 12 examinations there are a lot of study resources available to you. Examples of past exams and practice essay questions are a great way to revise. Luckily, we put together a comprehensive guide for surviving your final years of school and what to do after you graduate. In the guide, you'll find tips particularly on preparing for your final exams and what to on the official exam dates.
We’ve discussed many important aspects of preparing for exams, but now it’s up to you. Use the advice above to help you come up with some of your own strategies and plans. Reach out for help when you need it, stay motivated, work hard and you will be sure to see the results. Good luck!
Rosa is a freelance writer based in Melbourne. She is passionate about the education sector and has been published in various online magazines. When she's not studying or writing, she's making coffee or hanging out with her dog.