Preparing for Exams

Selection_228Hi everyone, Nicole here.

It is exam time again. Last Fall, I suggested some helpful tips on how you can approach studying for your final exams. This year I’d like to work off of those ideas to discuss how you can start preparing yourself for your exam review.

What should you think about when sitting down to study for your exams? The more time and effort that you spend on your review, the more comfortable you’re going to feel when you sit down to write your exam. Below, I’ve listed some questions to ask yourself before you dive into your notebooks.


What is your exam schedule like?

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how important it is to know when your exams are. You can find out about your exam schedule by visiting the Exams sections on the Current Students web page. Some of you may have already written some exams during the last week of classes.

Your exam schedule tells you: the day, place and time you’re writing your exam; whether you have any exam conflicts; and gives you an idea on how to approach your studying. For example: I have two exams scheduled during the same week with only one day separating them. I’m going to have to divide the time I spend on review equally between those two classes if I want to excel at both. I can also consider trying to link some of the material from my courses together to help me remember core ideas.

Learn! Don't just memorize.

Learn! Don't just memorize.

When exams are so close together it becomes a lot harder to rely on memory, and there is a greater risk of mixing up what you studied. That’s why I suggest you learn the course material and be able to apply it in discussion.


Have You Done All of Your Readings?

Do you still have readings to do?

Do you still have readings to do?

Falling behind in your readings is nothing to be ashamed about. It happens to the best of us. Before I start going through my class notes, I always try to go back and read anything I may have missed in my courses.

If you find that you’re pressed for time and feeling a bit overwhelmed with how much you have to read before you can actually start your review, try to focus on the main points of the text. Make sure you know:

  • The name of the text and the author
  • The topic
  • The argument the author is trying to make
  • Some of the key terms and themes that were used in the text
  • How you can use it as an example for your exam


Do you know what the important concepts are?

Are you familiar with the main ideas?

Are you familiar with the main ideas?

Over the last few months you’ve been covering a lot of subject matter in your courses. Are you aware of the topics that you looked at? If you’re not, look over your syllabus. More often than not, professors provide headings for the various topics they are going to teach in their classes. These headings often contain important concepts.

Now is the time to figure out which concepts you understand and which ones you need a little more clarification on. You can still reach out to your tutorial leaders and professors to clarify the terms you’re struggling with. Even though classes have ended, that doesn’t mean you can’t contact your instructors.


What is the format of the exam like?

Will the exam be multiple choice questions? Will you have to write an essay?

Pay attention to the format of the exam.

Pay attention to the format of the exam.

Looking at the way the exam is set up can help you decide how to study. For instance, if your whole exam is multiple choice then you may want to focus more on the details of a reading, like what an acronym stands for or the year that a bill was passed, etc. If you’re going to have to deal with short answer and essay questions then you want to look at the major themes within your class and pick out course readings and discussions you had in class that apply to those themes. During your exam, try to speak about these key concepts and themes with the help of the course texts as examples.

Most professors will tell their students how their exam is going to be set up. If you’re not sure of the format, look over a past test that you’ve taken in the class. If you haven’t taken a test in the class before, then I would make sure to speak to your tutorial leader or your professor and ask them what you can expect.

Don’t forget that the Learning Commons and Learning Skills Services are available to help you if you run into issues with your review strategies.