How to Pass Exams First Time: Study Tips for Success
Tips to Make the Most of Your Study Time
- Study in a distraction-free environment. No TV or phone calls allowed!
- Prioritize your work. Tackle the most difficult task first while your brain is still fresh.
- Revise in two steps: The 1st read-through is for general comprehension only. Use the 2nd read-through to make notes of key points.
- Use your senses to help you memorize facts. Listen to audio and DVD about the subject as well as reading books.
- Test yourself to rehearse for the exam. This can be done with a study-buddy.
- Take short breaks during study periods. Exercise or short naps can help refresh you.
- Continue to self-test periodically throughout the weeks leading up to your exam. This helps to reinforce your learning.
Be Organized and Plan Your Revision
Exam and test results affect your life by opening or closing career options. To perform well in them and demonstrate your knowledge, you need to plan ahead. I recommend It's easy to read and will help you get good exam grades. The Everything Guide to Study Skills: Strategies, tips, and tools you need to succeed in school.
- Adopt good study strategies when you start a course. Don't wait until the very last minute.
- Pace your studies throughout the college year and you will be able to enter exams with confidence.
- Make notes as you revise. This will help you learn and remember key facts.
- Create a realistic revision timetable in good time to calm exam nerves.
One Student's Study Routine For Finals
How do you feel about exams?
How to Revise in Three Easy Steps
- The first time you revise your course texts and lecture notes you are reading to gain a broad understanding of the subject. At this stage it's more important that you grasp overall concepts than to make revision notes.
- You will revisit the topic in a second reading. At this stage you should underline key phrases or jot down keywords as you go through your course notes. This active learning method will help you to understand and remember your subject in greater detail.
- The notes you make doing this will also act as an aide memoir (something that jogs your memory on key points) which can be referred to a few days before the exam.
How to Deal With Exam Stress
Keep Your Study Plan Simple
Making a study timetable should not be a bigger project than the revision itself. Don't be tempted to subdivide each hour into the minutiae of the subjects you need to study. Remember the acronym KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid).
Try and obtain exam papers from previous years. These will give an indication of the type of questions that are likely to appear in the exam. Your college or university may be able to provide these. Alternatively, you can buy previous years’ papers from the examining boards themselves.
Eat Proper Meals, Exercise and Drink Water
Throughout your revision period eat healthily and exercise regularly and it will help to reduce your stress levels. It’s tempting to think it doesn’t matter if you exist on junk food because you’re too busy to prepare real meals. But a good night's sleep and a balanced diet can help improve your mental alertness and ability to study.
Are you a morning person? A night owl? Do you hit your stride around midday? Experiment studying at different times during the day and find out what time works best for you. By finding your ideal study time, you may end up working less with more reward.— Joshua Shifrin "Study Skills 365"
The Day of the Exam
If you are studying at school, college or university, your exam may be held in a room you've been in before. However if you've been following a distance learning course then the location of the exam may be new to you.
Whatever your situation, it's important to familiarize yourself with the test location. Think about how you're getting there. There's nothing worse than getting stuck in a traffic jam on your way to an exam. It’s a good idea to do a practice run a few days beforehand to see how long the journey takes. On the actual day of the exam make sure you allow some extra time for the journey “just in case”.
Inside the Exam Room: The Exam Itself
Your teacher or lecturer will tell you the rules of the exam room. This will include instructions about what can and cannot be taken into the examination.
It's common practice for cell phones (mobiles) to have to be left outside the exam hall. If you're unsure whether or not you're allowed to take something into the room with you, find out before the day of the exam itself. This will prevent you becoming more stressed than necessary. For example, if you need to have an asthma inhaler with you, the rules may require you to inform the examination supervisor of this.
For the exam itself, make sure you have several pens and pencils. If you're allowed to do so, have a bottle of water on your desk. There's usually a clock on the wall of the exam room and you can use this to pace yourself through the exam. The time allowed to complete an exam is designed to give the average student sufficient time to complete all questions. A very able student may finish in a shorter time and a poor student may struggle. In order to give you the best chance of gaining a pass mark or above, you will need to pace yourself through the exam.
Pace Yourself and Do Your Best
- When instructed to do so, you will turn over the exam paper and look at the questions. Don't be tempted to scan quickly through as you may start to panic.
- Calmly read through each question and make a mark against those that you think are particularly easy or particularly difficult. Allow yourself no more than five minutes for this.
- The remaining period of the exam should then be divided equally between the number of questions you need to answer. For example, if it's a three-hour paper and you need to answer five questions then you have half an hour for each question, plus five minutes at the start for the read-through, and 25 minutes at the end for final checking.
You may answer the exam questions in any order you like. Make sure that you number the questions correctly so that the examiner knows which question you have answered. Choose one of the ones you think is relatively easy as your first question to answer. This will give you some confidence and help you relax. Next try one of the more difficult questions as you are still relatively fresh. The remaining questions can then be tackled in any order. Keep an eye on how time is passing and make sure you move onto the next question promptly even if you haven’t completely answered each question.
Structuring Your Answers
Each answer should take the form of a mini essay. Start with an introductory paragraph to open up the topic. Next discuss the main meat of the argument which will include the pros and cons. You can then finish with a final summing up paragraph.
Your answer must be written using correct grammar and complete sentences. Spelling is important too. Examiners will mark you down if you use text-speak rather than writing grammatically correct English.
Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible and suddenly you're doing the impossible.— Francis of Assisi
Gaining Crucial Extra Marks
If you have paced yourself through the exam as planned, then you'll have made sure you have some time left after answering the required questions to reread and check over your answers. Often you will spot some obvious factual errors, or a couple of spelling mistakes. By having allowed sufficient time to correct these, you can gain the crucial extra marks to move you into a better grade.
Exams are test your knowledge and skills. However, exam technique also plays a role in how well you perform in these tests. Stay focused and calm and you'll be able to effectively demonstrate the extent and depth of your knowledge.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.