5 Tips to Studying for an Exam
There are many pieces of advice you will hear about studying for exams in college. I offer some insights based on the fact that I was once a college student who successfully studied for exams and as a college professor who now administers exams.
1. The Proper Attitude: It is important to go into any class you are taking and the exams in that class with the proper attitude. Exams are not designed to torture you no matter how it may seem. Exams are simply a method of assessing whether you have mastered the course material. If you look at them in this light you can guide your studying towards mastery which will not only allow you to do well on the exam but will also increase your retention of the material which is the whole point of taking the course in the first place.
2. Don’t Cram: First and foremost do not procrastinate and cram for an exam. Successful studying for an exam entails more than trying to earn a certain grade for the exam. The point of the exam is to assess mastery so ideally your goal should be to achieve that mastery of the material. If you focus on that the unintended byproduct will be a good grade. So, begin studying for your exam immediately. And once you complete one exam begin studying for the next one immediately.
3. Pace Yourself: To successfully get through a semester of courses you will need to master material in several different courses and this will entail taking multiple exams throughout the semester. So, the best way to successfully complete a semester is to study a little bit all of the time as opposed to cramming around exam time and doing nothing else the rest of the time. While the method of cramming is tempting you waste a lot of energy doing this, increase your stress level, and often do not succeed on the exam anyway. On the other hand, if you are always doing a little bit you have as much free as you want, you don’t have to stress out before exams, and you don’t have to stay up late cramming for exams.
4. Relax: This advice is true for approaching your college experience in general but is especially useful for succeeding with exams and other assignments. A few rules I came up with to help with this when I was in college were to never stay up late studying for exams, never study the night before an exam, and get a good dinner and night’s sleep before the exam. In order to put those rules in place I had to follow the advice above. In particular, I had to study a little bit all of the time so that there would be no need to stay up late and study the night before.
5. A Positive Attitude: A final rule I had for exams came from an observation I made early on in my college experience. I noticed that many students would be frantically studying minutes before an exam as the professor walked in. To me this seemed to send a signal of a lack of preparedness and weakness, not to mention a lack of confidence. So, I vowed never to let the professor see me studying before an exam. Since I had followed all of the previous rules and advice I could spend the few minutes before an exam relaxing, telling myself that I had studied well and was prepared for the exam and in general building my confidence in my own ability to succeed.
While following this advice will put you at odds with many of your peers you will ultimately benefit by lowering your stress level, enjoying your courses more, learning more, retaining more, and you will also succeed in your exams.