The Best Ways to Prepare for a Big Exam

Apr 12, 2021

The final weeks before a big exam can be extremely stressful. Knowing how to prepare yourself for the exam is vital in preventing unnecessary stress at this already stressful time. Hopefully, this article will provide you with a few tips about utilizing your time during those final weeks before you sit your exam. 

1: Make yourself a study plan

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

Benjamin Franklin

Success loves preparation. Are you prepared?

Cramming it all in the night before a big exam is not the way to go. Neither is panicking and just immersing yourself in your books for weeks on end before your exam! But this isn’t necessarily going to help if you aren’t organized.

Take action:

  • Make a plan for each subject, decide how much time you need to spend revising, and make sure you schedule enough breaks so that your brain can have a break. Regular breaks will help to prevent academic burnout.
  • Attend coworking spaces, libraries, or your study room where you can focus without distractions. Some people like to form study groups, but that is not to everyone’s taste, so don’t join one if you prefer to study alone. However, if you choose to study independently and find yourself in need of some help and clarification, reach out and ask for it.  
University of Groningen

The video above by the University of Groningen shares some tips on how to make a good study plan.

Depending on your preferences, you can either create a digital study plan (Free revision planner) or alternatively, you can create a physical one.

2: Form a study group

Some people like to form study groups, but that is not to everyone’s taste, so don’t join one if you prefer to study alone. However, if you choose to study independently and find yourself in need of some help and clarification, reach out and ask for it.  

If joining a study group would be beneficial to you, use your sessions to take turns to explain key concepts to each other. If you can explain a concept to someone else, it is a good indication that you truly understand the content.

When preparing for a big exam, remember that you are not alone. You are in the same boat as your peers. Studying with others who will also be sitting the exam can help you to stay motivated, on track and focused.

It is important that you do not get distracted during group study sessions as this will be counterproductive. To avoid this, plan your group study session in advance. For example, you could plan to go through a past exam paper and the mark scheme.

Photo by Ivan Samkov from Pexels

3. Study Smart

When you have a big exam coming up, it is easy to assume that the more hours of revision that you put in the better your grades will be.

However, this is not always the case. Study strategically. This involves fully understanding what is going to come up in the exam and allocating your revision time accordingly.

Use the resources that you have been given to help you prepare for your exam. This might include things such as:

  • The course syllabus
  • Lecture notes and worksheets
  • Past papers and mark schemes
  • Coursework assignments
  • Read revision notes created by others who have sat the same exam
  • Take full advantage of your tutors’ office hours and tutoring services.
  • Take advantage of any student study classes
Thomas Frank

4. Take care of yourself while you study

Take good care of yourself during this time. If you are tired and stressed, you aren’t going to be able to study effectively. 

Sleep is vital to your well-being, especially during exam times. Your body needs roughly eight hours of sleep a night.

You need to also consider your dietary requirements by eating a good breakfast to fuel your brain for a day’s study. Having a good meal the morning of your exam is also vital. For more on this, check out this post on healthy food for students during exams.

You also need to make sure you are staying adequately hydrated by drinking plenty of water while you study and on the day of your exam.

If you have prepared well all year round for your exams, then the days immediately before you take final exams, you should be on top of things and only need to review what you’ve learned.

Above all, remember that all-night cramming sessions, drinking excessive coffee, and tired eyes are not going to bode well if you want to do well in your final exams.

5. What to expect on the day of your exam?

On the day of your exam, try and relax. Take the morning before the test to calm your mind. As the Osmosis team says regarding the day of the exam: ‘Well, expect some nerves. If you’re not feeling nervous, great! If you are, it’s totally normal—this test is a big step in your career. Try to get up early and, if you can skip caffeine in the morning, as this can often add to your jitters. Eat a good breakfast.”

Before the exam starts check your bag and make sure you have all the equipment you need with you. A pen, pencil, eraser, timetable! Make sure to be at the exam venue before the exam starts at least 30 minutes. Locate the exam room and talk with the supervisor to get informed about the exact time you should enter the room. 

Final thoughts

Knowing how to prepare for an exam is vital in preventing unnecessary stress. Know your style and don’t try new methods. Make a study plan, make sure you are eating well, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep. No matter what exam you are taking, make sure you understand the format of the test and what is required of you.

On the day of the exam, try to keep your mind focused and don’t be hard on yourself. Check for the necessary items you need to have with you and do your best.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. For expert career advice, find out more about our one-to-one coaching services.

Written by: Anthony Marcia. Anthony is a School Guidance Counselor who supports students, helping them with their career goals, academic problems, and social situations. It is always great to teach students how we think, act and feel through education

Featured image by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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