Exam preparation

Effective preparation makes everything run a little smoother when exam period rolls around. Read on for some great exam preparation tips and what to do on exam day. If you're struggling or feeling stressed, there are also people you can talk to for help.

You might find this useful if:

  • You want to know how to prepare for exams
  • You want to know what to do to get organised for exam day
  • You want some handy study techniques

two guys reading a book

What does ‘exam preparation’ mean?

Preparing for exams is not just about studying effectively, although that is a big part of it. In fact, if you want to be super organised, your exam preparation can start as early as your very first class. If you take the time to really prepare yourself for an exam, not only will it increase your chance of performing better  in that class or course, but it will help to greatly reduce your stress and panic on the day of the exam. Keep in mind that everybody studies differently and you need to find a technique that works for you. 

How to prepare for exams:

  • Consistent note taking. Your exam preparation can start really early on in the semester. If you take notes as you go, you will save yourself a lot of time when it comes to exam period. You will be able to get straight to revising the study notes you already have, as opposed to producing the study notes from scratch first. 

  • Time management. Write a schedule that states everything you have to do in order to be 100% ready for your exam. This schedule should factor in a good amount of relaxation time so that you don’t burn out before you’ve sat the exam. Check out an example of a study timetable.

  • Study space. Sometimes our study space is the same as our fun-times space. This can be tricky and lead to a whole lot of procrastination. An important part of exam preparation is setting up a clean and simple work space that is removed from where you relax and have fun. Be sure to move all of your rascally technological distractions to another room.

  • Sleep. Sometimes our sleep schedule suffers around exam time. It can seem like sleeping is just wasted time when we could really be getting stuff done. Truth is, without sleep it can become very hard to focus and be productive. Sleep regular hours and your study will actually benefit from it.

  • Explain out loud. If you can explain something out loud and successfully make someone else understand, it usually means that you understand it yourself. 

  • Recognise your learning style. One of the ways of thinking about how we learn best is by categorising ourselves as either a visual (learns by looking at images, mindmaps etc.), auditory (learns by listening) or physical (learns by doing things) learner. If you can figure out what works best for you, you can structure your exam preparation accordingly. Keep in mind you might be a combination of these learning types. 

  • Try to avoid any surprises on exam day. If possible, know how your exam is going to be structured and what content is going to be covered. Your teacher will usually be pretty happy to share some information on all that kind of stuff. 

  • Study groups. Some students find it really helpful to form study groups and talk things over with other people about to sit the same exam. The risk you run with study groups is that you might start out talking about trigonometry and end up discussing the pros and cons of various cat memes. Stay focused!

Exam day

Exam preparation is not only about the lead up to the exam. It’s also really important to consider exam day itself and the various things that you’d like to have ready when the dreaded day rolls around:

  • Make sure you know where the exam will be and what your seat number is (if you have one).
  • Bring plenty of water.
  • Bring plenty of pens and pencils.
  • Make sure you have a good night’s sleep the night before.
  • Eat a good breakfast that will fill you up.
  • Leave plenty of time to get to the exam room.
  • Some exams allow dictionaries or calculators but make sure you check first with your teacher

Still having trouble getting prepared for exams?

If you’re really struggling to get organised with your exam preparation, you might like to talk to a teacher or school counsellor so that you can figure out a clear path as to what you need to do. If you’re feeling really stressed about exams, you might like to check out some of the different ways that you can beat exam stress or talk it through with your teachers.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 18 December, 2015
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