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Summer time, exam time

It's almost exam time... read on for tips to help you get prepared!
Published by Julia Lane

I am sure you don't need us to remind you that the summer exam period is one week away (though if you did find that reminder helpful, you're welcome!)

Here are some of our 5 best pieces of advice for preparing for your exams: 

1. Review previous exams

One of the best ways to prepare for upcoming exams is to look at and think about any errors you made on previous exams.

This approach is especially useful if you've already had an exam for this course (like a midterm), or if you've taken a course with the same instructor that had an exam. 

However, looking over previous exams is helpful, even if you are looking at exams from other courses because it will help you to get a sense of the kinds of errors you tend to make and to think about how to avoid those types of errors. If you do not understand what kinds of errors you are making or how to address them, consult your TA or instructor.

2. Be informed about the exam

The more you know about the format and emphasis of an upcoming exam, the better prepared you can be. Make sure you know, or find out, the answers to these questions:

  • What is the format of the exam? Multiple-choice? Short answer? Essay? Open book? A combination?
  • How long is it? How much time will I have to write it? How many questions will there be? (This will alert you to exams that are time-crunched, or conversely, ones that will allow time for planning.)
  • What percentage of the overall course grade is the exam worth? (If it’s worth a lot, it deserves a lot of your attention!)
  • What topics have been emphasized in the lectures?
  • Are practice exams available?

3. Develop a study plan

Mapping out a study plan will allow you to avoid cramming and help to alleviate stress!

  • Prepare a list of all the topics you will need to know for the exam.
  • Figure the time you have for studying between now and the exam date and book those times with yourself as "study blocks." Assign each study block a topic, allowing extra time for difficult topics. Try to save the day before the exam for a general overview.
  • Check off topics from your list after you have finished reviewing them. This can help to boost your confidence.

4. Organize your material 

There are a number of note taking and diagramming methods you can use to organize your study materials. Here are just a few examples:

  • Comparison charts: Useful for learning the similarities and differences between theories or concepts.
  • Mind mapping: A diagramming technique that can be used for summarizing a lecture or chapter, getting an overview of a concept, or organizing ideas. To learn how to create a mind map check out Concept Mapping (University of Guelph)
  • Flow charts: Suitable for learning procedures or processes.
  • Numbered lists: Helpful for memorizing traits or characteristics related to a central concept.

5. Practice as you will perform

As you are studying, test yourself in conditions similar to the exam-writing situation you will experience:

  • Find or make-up practice questions that are of the type that will be on the exam;
  • Put your books away (unless it is an open book exam) while you complete the practice questions;
  • Work under timed conditions;
  • You may even want to visit the examination room to get comfortable in the space. This is an effective strategy for addressing exam anxiety.

Wishing you a healthy and successful exam period, 

- Your friends at the SLC 


Image credit: 

"Exam" by Alberto G. on Flickr