Exam Prep 101: How To Create An Effective Study Strategy


There’s no right or wrong way to study for exams – everyone learns differently.

One method that works well for a friend may not work well for you. Exam preparation can be stressful, especially if you have multiple tests to prepare for. Therefore, it’s important for you to understand what kind of learner you are, and what works well for you.

From your work environment to your study partners, there are many different factors involved in creating a good study strategy. It’s not always a matter of how long you study, but rather, how effective you are in reviewing the course materials.

So let’s go over some tips that can help you prepare for exams!

Productive Studying

Photo by mer chau / CC BY 2.0
Photo by mer chau / CC BY 2.0

Studying for exams requires time to review and understand all the key course concepts you’ve learned. However, that doesn’t mean studying for hours upon hours is productive. Staying home the weekend before an exam and cramming as much studying in as possible in two days will only add more stress and pressure. Instead, spread out your studying out over the course of a week – it will become a much more manageable task. You may have to plan your studying around other responsibilities, but studying in smaller and more manageable sessions can help reduce anxiety.

Another way to make studying more productive is to have breaks in between. Breaks allow you to take a step back, take in a breath of fresh air, and evaluate the progress you’ve made. In other words, taking a break from studying can help you recharge and put course materials in context to one another. Studying doesn’t have to mean sitting at a desk for long periods of time in front of textbooks. It can be incorporated into your regular schedule, and be less intimidating.

Study Groups vs. Studying Alone

Photo by nerissa's ring / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by nerissa’s ring / CC BY-SA 2.0

Some people like to study in groups, and others like to study alone. Both study methods have their advantages and disadvantages, but combining both study methods can be very helpful. For students who struggle with getting the motivation to study early, meeting with a study group can help push you to keep a regular schedule. A study group can also act as a support network. Rather than facing the stress and pressure of exams alone, members in a study group can help one another by sharing notes and having discussions about the course materials.

Studying alone is another effective study method, especially if you know the areas you need to spend the most time on. Unlike study groups, where the focus is broader because they take into account everyone’s exam concerns, studying alone means you can concentrate on your specific areas of interest. It also allows you to schedule and set the pace of studying to your personal preferences.

Noisy vs. Quiet Study Spaces

Your work environment can have a huge impact on your focus. While a quiet study space may appear to be the obvious choice for studying, everybody’s different. Some people might prefer working in a louder environment because the background noise helps them concentrate. On the flip side, some people find excess noise distracting and prefer quieter study spaces. Either way, knowing what kind of space works for you is important because it will have an impact on how well you absorb the information you’re reviewing.

Keep Things in Perspective

While exams can be stressful for a busy student, it’s important to keep things in perspective. There are a lot of factors that determine your final grade and if your exam results are not what you expected, it is not the end of the world! Just make sure to find out where you went wrong so you can improve for next time.

Exam time doesn’t have to be scary. Just give yourself enough time to prepare, do your best, and most importantly – relax!

What’s your favourite study space? Let us know in the comments!