Guest Post: Study Success This Exam Season

students study for exams

The term has ended and it’s time to show your courses what you’re made of. Whether you’ve been hard at work all term or kicked it into high gear after midterms, here are some tips to help you study and take on your exams with confidence.

Even if your finals are cumulative, there can be a lot of content to study. It’s best to approach exam preparation in a systematic way and by breaking it down into manageable pieces. Start by figuring out what to study whether that’s by the amount of time you want to spend studying or more specific goals.

What do I study?

Begin by narrowing down what you need to study through a careful review of your resources. Did you attend an exam review class? Is there an exam outline on Learn?

Make sure you know what to expect on the exam before you start studying the whole course. With your review or outline in mind, you can plan out how much you need to, or can, get through.

Pull out those notes and put them to good use. Find principal themes, subtopics or major illustrations and memorize them. Write out a course summary and have a good grasp of what’s happened throughout the term. Make sure to highlight what areas you had trouble with, so you can focus on those now.

How do I study?

1. Find the time

Once you determine how and what you’re studying, it’s time to get down to actually studying. Grab a calendar for the rest of the month and plan out the days leading up to your exams. Block out time to study and use your course outline to create goals for what you plan to accomplish each day. Voila, your to-do list.

2. Find a place

Ensure you are in a location that is most conducive to getting your work done. For some, that will be at home in their room. If you’re like me, and tend to spend more time in bed than at your desk when you’re at home, maybe consider studying on campus.

Though the SLC study space is limited due to construction, you can use Portal to find open classrooms around campus to study in.

3. Find a strategy that works for you

Whether it's visual diagrams, reciting your notes back to yourself, or continuous practice of problems, finding a study system that works for you ensures that the time that you spend studying is as efficient as possible. Take the time to discover your ideal learning style.

There are a number of ways to learn actively. Always ask yourself if you understand what you’re learning. Some ways to build that understanding include:

  • Creating associations
    • While you're reading or taking notes, try to connect concepts and questions to other concepts and themes from the course. Practice recalling these connections so you can remember them while you're taking the exam.
  • Self-testing
    • Did your professor supply you with practice exams? Were there questions on the midterm that you need to be familiar with? Go through those. Try not to immediately look at the answers, but go through what you think the right answer is and why. If it turns out you were wrong, take the time to understand what it was that you were wrong about.
  • Teaching the information to someone else
    • Group studying is great when you can all stay on track. Try explaining concepts to your friends – it will help deepen your own understanding of the material.
  • Summarizing
    • Once you’ve gone through a lot of your notes on a concept, be sure you’re retaining that information. Write down a quick summary of what you’ve reviewed to solidify your learning.

Studying can be an exhaustive exercise. Taking regular breaks is essential in maintaining a clear mind. By eating and sleeping well you will also ensure a healthy body. After all, what’s the use of all your efforts if you’ll be too exhausted to remember everything you studied? Prioritize sleeping and eating well throughout exam time.

Finishing up the term can be hectic and stressful at times, but we believe in you and a community of fellow Warriors are behind you every step of the way. Good luck on your exams.

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STUDY TIPS

This post was adapted from an original blog post, written by Alexis Nagum, that appeared on the Student Success Office’s UWaterlooLIFE blog on April 11, 2018

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