Whether they’re high school finals, for getting into a university, or measuring your proficiency, preparing for and taking an exam can be a nerve-wracking experience. There’s usually a lot riding on an exam, and thought of that alone can really put the pressure on.
While it’s true that taking an exam is a major event, getting ready for it doesn’t have to be a major life decision, especially if you plan it carefully ahead of time. If you think about it, an entire semester is your exam preparation time.
Check out these suggestions for acing your exams, from buckling down to your books to taking the actual tests:
- Figure out what you have to study, and put it down in a study guide. If you’re not sure about anything, ask your teacher (to make sure you don’t study something that isn’t coming out in the exam).
- Assess how much you have to study for an exam, and how many days you have to study for it, and schedule your study time accordingly. If you have to study 10 chapters, for instance, and you have 10 days to study them, you could probably study a chapter a day—say, for an hour a day. But don’t forget to schedule breaks!
- Stay focused for that hour or that chunk of time you’ve set aside for studying for your exam (that will count more than several hours of distracted “studying”).
- Study the hardest lessons first, and save the easiest ones for last. That way you’ll have more energy for when you need it more.
- The 3R or Read-Recite-Review Method is a great way to study for exams that require a lot of reading. First, read through a chapter, explain it in your words without looking back at the chapter, then read the chapter again to see if you explained it right or missed anything.
- Stick reviewers or notes where you can see them: on the wall above your desk, at the foot of your bed, on your bathroom mirror, your locker door.
- Make a practice exam, with all the questions (and types of questions) that you think are bound to come out. You can even time yourself and check your answers against your books or notes afterwards.
- Get enough sleep before the exam. You’ll want to be alert come test time.
- Make sure to come on time, or early (better yet), so you’ll be nice and relaxed when you take the test.
- Some things you might want to take with you: a watch (so you can time yourself), an extra pen, extra pencil, sharpener, eraser, and anything else you might need like a calculator or notes (if it’s an open notes exam).
- Look through the test before answering anything so you can plan your time—like you’ll probably need more time for essay questions, for instance.
- Read the instructions carefully and make sure you understand them before answering anything.
- Answering all the easy questions first, and going back to the harder ones could help save time.
- When it comes to true or false questions, pick out the key words and phrases that make the question true or false.
- For multiple choice questions, start by crossing out the choices which are obviously false.
- For matching type questions, look through the list of choices first before matching anything.
- For fill-in-the-blanks or complete-the-sentence questions, be careful about the words you use. If you’re not sure, guess as best you can.
- When answering essay questions, try to make your handwriting as legible as possible (teachers hate it when they can’t read your handwriting, and are liable to give you a lower grade because of this). Don’t waste time writing entire novels—get straight to the point and answer the question directly.
- Some students get panic attacks during exams. If this happens, try to control your breathing with slow, deep breaths. Skip the part that makes you panic, then come back to it after you’ve answered the other parts. If this happens a lot, you could get counseling, but try to do this as early as possible before your next exam.
- Pace yourself during the exam, especially during two- or three-hour extravaganzas. See if you can rest for a couple of minutes in between sections or every 40 minutes or so.
- If there’s any time left, use it to review your answers and edit, if you have to.