Tips on How to Effectively Study for an Exam

Preparing for an Exam

Exams are an essential part of a student’s life. Studying for one will no doubt take up much of the student’s time. However, preparing for an exam doesn’t have to be stressful and tiring. You just have to know how to study more effectively. Here are some tips on how you can go about it.

Image result for student thinking

I – Determine what kind of exam you’ll take

One thing you can do before you start preparing for an exam is to find out what kind of test you’ll be doing. Is it a multiple choice test or will you be writing an essay? Will the teacher give your class an open book exam? Different exams require different approaches.

Essay: This type of exam usually entails a discussion of several topics. It would be a good idea for you to find out how many questions you’ll be required to answer so you can prepare accordingly. If you have to discuss three topics, read up on them and brush up on another topic, just in case.

Multiple choice: An exam like this covers a lot of material, everything from the lectures to the books and hand-outs. Check the subject’s course outline and use it as a guide for identifying the main concepts of what you need to review.

Open book: Never assume that you won’t have to study just because you’ll be allowed to use a book. This type of exam is designed to test your skill in sorting through the information you need to solve a problem. Go over your notes and make sure you know where to find the information in your book.

Study Effectively

II – Start your preparations

Once you have an inkling of what kind of exam you’ll be taking, it’s time to start preparing for it.

  1. Start Studying as Early as You Can
    There’s no harm in preparing or reviewing for a test early. Go over your notes after each lecture and rewrite them in a way that’s clear to you. Start going over or revising them a month before your exam. You might not be aware of it but you’re actually reviewing the lesson every time you revise or update your notes.
  1. Make a Study Schedule
    Get a weekly planner so you can organise your study time. Cross out the hours that you can’t study because of classes and other commitments. Highlight one-hour slots that you can use for reviewing notes and studying. Schedule these slots during times when you’re more alert and focused.
  1. Arrange your Notes and Course Materials
    Gather all the course materials distributed to your class. Borrow your classmate’s notes if you’ve missed lectures. Make sure you have a copy of all the handouts and supplementary materials.
  1. Rewrite your Notes
    Read and analyse your notes. Consider why you wrote them the way you did. Think about how you can explain it more efficiently then rewrite it. This will actually help you remember what you wrote down and why.
  1. Clarify what you don’t Understand
    Make sure you understand what every word means and clarify concepts you’re uncertain about. Remember that even if you memorise a whole paragraph, it still won’t matter if you don’t understand the main idea.
  1. Dive in, but Place Limits on Yourself
    Study for 50 minutes maximum then take a break. Studying intently for short periods of time has been proven to be more effective than reviewing for hours on end. Always give your brain a chance to rest and absorb what it learned.
  1. Set Goals
    Give yourself a specific goal each time you study, like reading two chapters or trying to answer three equations. You can either write it down before you begin studying or set down your next goal at the end of the hour.
  1. Join a Study Group
    Find fellow students to study with. Exchanging notes or drilling each other on the lessons are great ways to remember and understand the lesson more fully.

Perfect study area

III. Create the Perfect Study Area for you

Every student needs a space where they can study, but finding that spot can be challenging. Whether you’re using a particular place on campus or creating your own study area, consider the following:

  1. It should be Quiet and Free from Distractions
    Avoid noisy places or areas where there’s a chance people might interrupt you.
  1. It should be Accessible to you Anytime
    Hopefully it will be a study area that’s exclusively for your use. But if you have to share the space, work out a schedule that’ll be beneficial for all.
  1. The Space should have Everything you Need for Studying
    Check for power outlets where you can plug in your computer or lamp. The desk has to be large enough to accommodate all your books and reading materials while the chair should be comfortable enough that you can sit on it for hours while studying.
  1. Your Study area should have enough Light
    This is very important as poor lighting will lead to headaches or eyestrain.

Distractions are all around us. As a student, it’s your responsibility to minimise distractions while you’re studying. Pinpoint what distracts you and take steps to block them out. If it’s social media or emails, log off from your accounts and turn off your smartphone. Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door so your family and friends won’t bother you.

Studying books and notes

IV – Follow the SQ3R method of studying.

If you want to study more effectively and get better grades, follow the SQ3R method – survey, question, read, recall, review.

Survey: Scan through the material first before you study. Surveying your lecture notes, table of contents, graphs and the likes will give you a general picture of what you’ll be studying.

Question: Reading the study materials become more engaging and active if you look for specific answers. So create a question from the material. If you’re reading a text with the heading “20th Century Design,” your question could be – “who influenced design in the 20th century?”

Read: Go through the material once but don’t take notes yet. Read through it a second time and jot down notes about the main ideas. Use your own words.

Recall: Put down the book or cover your notes. Try to remember what you’ve just read. Write down what you recall and then check it against the reading material.

Review: This is the most important part of studying. Review your notes again at the end of your study hour. Try to come up with key words that summarise what you wrote down. This will act as a trigger that will help you remember crucial ideas. Make sure you allot a separate review time.

Don’t be intimidated by all the books, lecture notes and handouts you have to go through when studying for an exam. With discipline, focus and a little scheduling, you will be able to study effectively.


Central College Online is a part of the Group Colleges of Australia organisation which has been established for over thirty years and offers online courses in more than forty subjects to thousands of students.

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