Sep 13, 2019

3 Studying Hacks to Help You Ace Your Exams

Smiling female college student

Is there such a thing as an “easy A” anymore? Even if there is, most students have at least one class that makes it challenging to achieve or maintain a 4.0-grade point average. Learning how to effectively study for your exams without spending every waking moment reviewing notes, re-reading online textbooks and handouts, or becoming a Friday night library regular is possible with a few smart study hacks.

Strategy is key to doing well on exams, while still having time for a social life. A Stanford University psychology study found that students with a strategic study plan improved their exam scores by an average of one-third of a letter grade. If you have one or more courses threatening your grade point average, apply these study hacks to help you ace your exams.

1. Give It Time

Block time in your planner for exam prep. Avoid waiting until the week before the exam to review your class notes. Ideally, schedule your exam preparation time at the start of the academic term or when the test date is made public. If the exam is six weeks away, then mark your calendar every week for the next six weeks. A daily review of course material will put you in a better position to get help if you struggle with a particular topic. This will also prevent feelings of being overwhelmed if other tests are scheduled around the same time.

Speak to your instructor when a topic is hard to understand, or if you feel you’re falling behind in a subject. Don’t wait until test time to discover that you don’t grasp a foundational concept.

2. Organize Teaching Sessions

Study groups and review sessions can quickly turn into just another excuse to hang out with friends. Instead, host or lead a small student-led teaching session. These sessions should require active participation by each attendee. Gather a maximum of three students for each session. Every student involved must teach one to two concepts on the exam topic to the other students. This method reinforces what you already know and helps group members recognize areas where their understanding is lacking.

3. Practice Makes Perfect

Instructors are your go-to source of information as you prepare to ace your exams. They are not only teaching the subject, but they likely have copies of past exams. University libraries may also be a source of old exams.  Memorizing the answers from previous exams with hopes that the same questions will appear on your current test is a poor strategy. However, past tests can help identify weak areas that need your attention through additional study.

Another option is to create a practice exam. If not already stated in the course syllabus, ask your instructor about the format of the exam, i.e., multiple-choice, essay, fill-in-the-blank, or a mixture. Use that information to construct the layout of the practice test. Incorporate information contained in course study guides, class notes, and recent quizzes to design a pseudo exam to build your confidence and knowledge of the material. Repeated use of practice tests has the potential bonus benefit of reducing test-taking anxiety.

To make the most of these study hacks, make good health a priority. Living on takeout food and sleeping only a few hours a night can make it tough to focus, both in and out of the classroom. Get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables.

Apply these study hacks as you prepare for your next exam to see impressive results. After the exam grade is posted, further refine your test prep study plan based on your score and academic goals. As with most things in life, working smart is just as important as working hard.