Preparing for exams

Exam preparation really begins the day when your course begins, because your success depends on your day-to-day study habits as much as it depends on the more concentrated periods of study in the weeks leading up to the exam. If you have well-organised and complete notes and have regularly revised your work at the end of each topic or section, you are already on the way to success. However, in the weeks before the exam, you can aim for efficient and effective study by acting on the following steps.This graphic has four people with speech bubbles that have suggestions to help you succeed. They say "Develop good study habits", "Be organised", Complete your notes", "Regularly revise your work"

Organise your time

You need to find at least one extra hour a day for each subject. Be realistic; do not plan to do more than six hours of study on one day. Do not plan to study any subject for more than one hour without a break.

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Make a study plan

Decide how much time you need to spend on each subject. Some subjects will require more work than others because of the level of difficulty, the quantity of material or the nature of the content. Think about the best time of day for focussing on a particular subject. Early morning is often recommended for subjects or topics which require a lot of memorisation.

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Organise your space (physical and mental)

Tidy your desk so that you can work comfortably. Try to eliminate distractions. Brace yourself for the task ahead and be confident about achieving your goal. Preparing for exams means working longer hours, but for a relatively short period of time.

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Organise your material

Make sure that you have all the relevant material for each topic you must study.

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Do some research

Find out as much as you can about the exam. Past exam papers can be found on the first floor of the Dixson Library near the photocopiers. They are also available electronically through Dixson Library’s E-reserve. Copy at least three past exam papers for each subject. Study the instructions and take note of the types of questions and the topics covered.

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The kind of revision you do will be determined by the subject you are studying, but it should involve more than simply reading your text book or your notes. Try to vary how you revise. You could record information and then listen to it while you are out walking. You could use wall posters, cards, mind maps, mnemonics and other memory aids, or repeat information aloud. Always bring your revision back to writing, which is what you will be required to do after all.

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Test yourself

Once you feel you have mastered a topic, practise on the past exam papers. This practice will help reinforce what you know. It will also help identify any gaps or weaknesses of your understanding of the topic. If you cannot get your answers checked or check them yourself, you may find it useful to form a small study group. Answers can be compared and discussed, usually to everyone’s benefit.

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Make your final preparations

Make sure that you know the time and place of the exam. If the location is unfamiliar, do not wait until the day of the exam to find the room or building. The night before the exam, look over your notes and review what you have done. If you have studied efficiently, you have every right to be confident. Make sure that you have all the necessary equipment. Try to get a good night’s sleep, and give yourself enough time to get to the exam without rushing.

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