Hope you’re all doing well! Today, I’m sharing my tips and tricks for preparing for exam season. I got quite a few messages on this a few weeks ago, so to answer everyone’s question, I hope this post helps!
Before I begin to talk about my study habits/tips and tricks for exam season, let’s talk about the things you will/may need. All the items below are items I personally use. These items help me stay organized, on task and help me do my work. You may or may not need all of them. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m very particular and VERY picky when it comes to school supplies. I only use Hilroy, Five Star or Levenger paper, my pens have to be Staedtler or Stabilo (I think it’s because I’m left handed and I tend to smudge a lot).
YELLOW HIGHLIGHTER // HIGHLIGHTER PACK (ASSORTED COLOUR) // STAEDTLER PENS (ASSORTED) // STAEDTLER PENS (BLACK) // STABILO (ASSORTED) // MECHANICAL PENCILS // ERASER // WHITE OUT // AGENDA // CODING LABELS // RULER // SHEET PROTECTOR // THIS WEEK PAD // REPORT COVER // FOLDERS // NOTEBOOKS (I also use this annotation style paper) // LINED PAPER // GRAPH PAPER // COLOUR PAPER // BINDERS // BINDER DIVIDERS // STAPLER // PAPER CLIPS // STICKY NOTES // STICKY TAG NOTES // VOICE RECORDER // CALCULATOR (scientific) // PENCIL CASE //
- Highlight important information in yellow highlighter
- If you don’t like to use highlighters, write notes in the margin
- I like to use these notes divider to write out/summarize important parts of the lecture or seminar
- Always, ALWAYS have your agenda with you. Write everything down!
- You have to learn how to skim readings to look for important information and summarize. These are key and very helpful when it comes to finding information.
One of the questions I get asked often is how do I study? Or what is the correct way to study? I don’t think there’s a right way to study or a specific way to study. We all learn differently. Some of us are more visual learners, some are auditory learners, some learn by reading and writing and some are kinesthetic learners. Personally, I’m all 4. I need to see, hear and do the work. I don’t like shortcuts. I don’t like to take the easy way out. I need to read and write everything down and actually do the work to better understand it.
- At the beginning of the semester, your Prof or Teaching Assistant(s), will hand out a syllabus. THIS IS YOUR LIFELINE. I can’t even stress how important a syllabus is to you and your academic career. GUARD YOUR SYLLABUS WITH YOUR LIFE. Your Prof and/or Teaching Assistant(s) will more than likely be going through the syllabus on the first day of class. Have a pen or pencil out and a highlighter to make notes or highlight important information. If you’re like me and everything has to be neat and proper, I will write out the notes in pencil first and then after class go through it in pencil and write these important information and dates in my agenda, my this week’s to do list and a memo pad. Some Profs may upload a PDF version onto your class portal, if do get one, you’re lucky. If they don’t upload a PDF version, make friends and ask someone in your class if you could photocopy their syllabus. Also, I like to keep mine in a sheet protector, so there’s no wrinkles on my syllabus.
- When the Professor/Teaching Assistant assigns something or gives a handout, I’ll look it over. I like to use a yellow highlighter to highlight the most important parts like due dates, requirements etc. Then, I get a sticky note, and put the same important information I just highlighted, write it down and put that sticky note on the top left corner (secure it with a paper clip, so it doesn’t fall off!) or I use my sticky note divider. After class or when I have some free time, that’s when I write all of the important information in my agenda.
- During lecture or during a seminar, I like to record the lecture with a voice recorder. Do this if it’s okay with your Professor or Teaching Assistant! When you’re busy writing or typing out the lecture, you may miss a few details, so at the end of class, I like to listen to the lecture again and write down or type out any information I may have missed!
- When the Prof or Teaching Assistant assigns a reading, case study or tells you to read a particular page in your textbook, I like to make summary notes of the reading. This helps so that I don’t have to read it again come test or exam time.
- I like to make visuals. If it’s a diagram, I’ll draw it out or if it’s something I can find on the computer and I can print it out, I’ll do that and add it to my notes. Visuals like diagrams, graphs etc., are very helpful to have in your notes.
- I like to do my assignments ASAP. If it’s an easier assignment, get that done over and done with first so that you don’t have to worry about it later on and regret forgetting to do it.
- When your schedule clears up (even if it’s just for a few hours), start making exam reviews and summaries. This will save you a lot of time come exam season.
- Every lecture I like to summarize the lecture and write down all the important/key information. I also do this for assignments or textbook work. Learning how to summarize your notes is a very important skill to have. I use coloured paper and place this with the notes from that particular lecture.
- When it comes to tests and exams, I like to prepare weeks in advance so I don’t stress myself over. I start by going over the definitions, important information etc., and write them out in cue cards. Writing and studying with cue cards is more effective than studying and looking over your notes.
- I also like to ask former students or do a quick Google search if the Prof or other Profs teaching that course uploaded previous tests or exams. This doesn’t always work every time, but I’ve been able to find previous exams and use that to study and test myself.
- When it’s two weeks or so from the actual exam date, that’s when I really study. I don’t cram too much information at a time and study throughout the day.
- Since I already did my summaries, I go over those summaries and I write them out on cue cards to test myself. I’ll also go through my notes to see if I missed anything and re-read textbook notes. Basically, everything that I need for my exam, I will have it on cue cards.
- A couple of days before the actual exam date, it’s best to plan your day out. If you have an early exam, eat a healthy breakfast and make sure you to have your student ID, pens, pencils and any other materials you will need during the exam. If your exam is later on in the afternoon or evening, try fitting in another study session. Make sure to leave early and be there at least 20-30 minutes before the exam starts!
- Make sure you get a goodnight’s sleep! PLEASE don’t pull an all nighter!
- Now, it’s time to write your exam! Don’t worry and stress yourself over. Do the questions you know first. If you don’t know the answer to the question, skip to the next question and come back to it later! It’s okay if you don’t the answer, but don’t stress over it as it can be time consuming and you can lose easy points on the questions you do know the answer to! If you’re lucky, your Prof may have given hints on the actual exam paper!
Left and Right Importance Prioritization
Another way, or another trick, I use to help me stay “sane” 😜 is by using the left/right method. Okay, I’m not 100% sure what it’s called or if it’s even a method, or where I saw this, but this has helped me a lot. Sorry!
In my agenda, there’s a section to write down notes. I like to use that to prioritize everything and anything I have to do that day, week, or month. On the left side, I will write down all the tasks that need to be done ASAP (stuff that need to be done that day or in a few days) on a sticky note. On the right side, I will write down all the tasks that can wait later on in the week (stuff like laundry on the weekend, go grocery shopping etc.). I also do the same thing in my command centre. I have a dry erase board and a cork board and do the exact same thing. If you don’t want to waste sticky notes or paper, a dry erase board will work better for you.
I like this method of prioritization because you get a visual of what is happening and what needs to be done. Also, if you already haven’t noticed, I like to make lists and write stuff down 🤪
TIPS TO REMEMBER….
- If there’s one thing a student needs in school, it’s an agenda. A lot of people think they will remember something instead of writing it down or at least making a reminder on their phones, and then bam! a few minutes after lecture, they forget.
- WRITE IT DOWN!!!!
- Drink water. Lots of it.
- Don’t cram for exams. Plan weeks in advance. Don’t stress yourself even more.
- It’s okay to have bad days. You’re only human. It’s okay to have days and you’re not having your “A” game. Take care of your personal and mental health, that’s far more important. 😘
- If you get a bad test mark or assignment back, don’t stress over it. Do better next time. Look to see where you can improve your mark. Every set back is a lesson, use it to your advantage.
- Use apps like “Self Control” to block social media websites so you don’t get distracted. LOVE this app!
- Schedule at least an hour or two every day just for yourself. Take a bath, read a book, watch Netflix, do something that makes you happy!
- Don’t write in paragraphs. Only write down key important information. Cue cards are great and helpful when it comes to retaining information!
If I forget anything, I’ll make sure to add to this post and if you have any questions, feel free to ask me and I’ll try to reply ASAP! Hope this somewhat helps you this exam season and answered all the messages I got!
Good luck and ace that exam!