Guide to prepare for an exam in 2021 [Updated]

Designer sketching Wireframes
Photographer: Green Chameleon | Source: Unsplash

Exams are something we all have to encounter at some point or the other. A lot of us have built our own personal systems on how we prepare for an exam. The rest of us, however, are usually at a loss when it comes to preparing for an exam. This piece of writing is dedicated to them.

Do you have an important exam coming up and you don’t know where or how to start preparing? Well, you have come to the right place! Here you will find everything you can do to prepare for an exam.

#1. Time Management

Speaking from personal experience, the biggest issue I have always had regarding exam preparation is time management. So I have researched and put together a few tips and tricks to help you with your time management.

1. Don’t cram!

This is a point I cannot emphasize enough on. While some students do thrive by cramming, this is not an effective method of preparation or studying. That is why try to avoid cramming as much as possible. The only thing cramming successfully does is overload your brain and cause anxiety as you try to fit an entire course’s worth of studying into a night or two. When you are cramming, you become more concerned about finishing your syllabus and how much you are studying instead of what you are studying.

Therefore it is always a good idea to study consistently over a long period of time. Go home and review your lectures after class every day. If you know a certain lecture is going to be in the exam, make sure to continually review it once every week till the exam. This makes the lecture a permanent memory instead of a fleeting one.

2. Create a routine- and stick to it!

Start ahead. Make sure to give your self enough time to not only comfortably learn your study materials but also practice and review it. The first step would be to figure out when your exams are. Write down the dates. Then write down the syllabus for each subject because the next step is to figure out what to study. Only you know how much time it will take you to complete each topic. Allocate time to each topic and subject accordingly. Then make your study routine. The human attention span is notoriously short. Therefore a good exercise is to study at 40 minutes bursts with 10 to 15-minute breaks in between. These breaks are equally important because they help rejuvenate your brain allowing you to retain information better.

There is a host of applications available for both your phone and computer that you can use to make and manage your timetable. Such apps include Todoist, Google Keep, Evernote, and many more. These apps have all been designed to help you prepare for an exam and are available for windows, android, and ios.

#2. Use different methods of studying

Originally I wanted to display unique photos for the Design Thinking section of my website. Something distinguishable me. The hardest part was to select the books I wanted to show ;-) It is a summary of tools I use in human-centered design. Books are very valuable as they contain knowledge. During workshops, it is great to visualize ideas and stick them to the wall. Lastly, documenting workshop results with a cell phone allows quick sharing in a decent quality.
Photographer: Jan Piatkowski | Source: Unsplash

Once you have figured out what you have to study it is time to gather and organize your study materials. Here are a few ways you can do that.

1. Make interactive notes

Go through your lectures, class notes, and books and then summarise everything in one place. Make sure to highlight the important points and emphasize the parts you think you are weak at. These summaries can act as your concept reference points as you prepare for an exam.

2. Use visual aids

The human brain retains information through a variety of different means. Use diagrams, tables, mind maps, and spider webs to organize and visually represent your information to remember it better. You can even use doodles if you want. Flow charts are extremely helpful. There are several apps that help with note-taking and mind mapping.

Another visual aid would be to highlight as you go through your study materials. Use different colors to mark and highlight different types of information as you study along.

Don’t just read from your textbook or your notes, try watching a few videos on the topic you are studying.

3. Make flashcards

Flashcards are a tried and tested method of studying. They come in extremely handy when you have to prepare for an exam. Simply write down your question one side on the index card and the answer on the other.

4. Explain what you learned to others

This is perhaps one of the most effective ways of studying. Once you have finished studying a section try calling up a friend and explaining that section to them. If you don’t want to bother a friend, simply try explaining the entire thing out loud to yourself. If you can cohesively explain the contents of what you just learned- then you will know you have successfully understood and stored the information in your brain.

5. Create Study groups

While this is not a method that works for everyone, it is a heavily suggested method of studying. Create study groups, get together with them, interact, share your notes. Explain what you learned to them and let them explain to you the part you don’t understand.

6. Predict Questions

An important step in preparing for any exam is to look back on all the previous exam papers and practice them. Doing so will give you a general idea of how the syllabus is interpreted into questions along with the overall question patters.

Study guides are also helpful for this. Study guides highlight the important point worth remembering and can predict questions for you.

7. Analyze what you are studying

Don’t just mindlessly read through your textbooks and revision materials. Try and analyze what you are studying. Criticize the reading material by asking questions like- “how did this happen?”, “why is this connected to that?”. Doing so will vastly increase your understanding of your reading materials. But most importantly it will help you remember better.

#3. Practice will help you prepare for an exam better!

Remember practice makes permanent. Practice past papers and exercises from your study materials over and over again to make sure all the information is securely embedded into your brain.

Giving timed mocks is a great way to practice. This recreates the exam environment for you and helps you practice time management to ensure that you don’t miss out on a question during the exam due to a time crunch.

1. Study effectively

So far we have covered all the ways you can prepare for an exam in regards to your study material. However, preparation for an exam is a little deeper than that. A lot of mental and physical aspects of your lifestyle and surroundings can prevent you from successfully preparing for an exam. So here are all the things you should and should not do to better prepare for an exam.

2. Take short breaks

Take frequent short breaks to rejuvenate your mind to be able to hold information better. These breaks should not be longer than 15 minutes at a time. Otherwise, there is a chance that you will be heavily distracted and your flow of studying will be ruined.

Try not to check social media during these breaks. Instead, go for a short walk around the house. Stretch your legs and rest your eyes for a bit.

3. Have a designated study space

Doing so establishes an area of productivity that automatically tricks your brain into being more productive. It is strongly suggested that you should not be studying in bed because your brain and body know that’s a place of rest and not productivity.

4. Switch up study spots

Sometimes a change of scenery goes a long way. I often find myself working and studying better in a quiet coffee shop than at home. So don’t hesitate to change it up every once in a while. Go to the library or a coffee shop. Or even go over to a friend's place to study better. Your productivity will increase significantly.

5. Snack for the brain

Our brain needs a lot of energy to function at optimum levels. Brain food includes highly nutritional snacks such as nuts, fruits, blueberries, yogurt, etc. These will help you concentrate better and your brain will be able to retain and comprehend what you are studying better.

Drink lots of water. Dehydration is energy-draining and will hamper your prep so remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

#4. Exam day prep

There are a few recommended prerequisites for the exam day that you can perform to make sure it runs as smoothly as possible.

1. Get enough sleep

We all tend to get antsy and nervous the day before a big exam and sleeping becomes difficult. But getting a solid 8 hours of sleep the night before the exam crucial in ensuring that your brain functions optimally and you are able to remember all that you previously studied.

2. Try and curb your nervousness

Being nervous before an exam is an ordinary human nature. However, a lot of us tend to be more nervous than usual and turn to our friends for support. If such friends reach out the night before the exam, do help them, but don’t let their nervousness turn yours into paranoia.

If you, yourself feel extreme levels of anxiety try meditating. Headspace is an amazing meditation app with really short meditation programs to help calm you down. you can download Headspace for your iPhone here, and your Android here.

3. Plan your exam day ahead

Make sure to leave the house early enough keeping traffic and other unforeseen incidents in mind, so that you do not arrive late for your exam. Also make sure to collect all extra materials and tools you might need from beforehand instead of waiting till the day before the exam.

And to end the part on tips about exam day prep I’ll give you a little tip from personal experience. Have energy or snickers bar about 30 minutes before your exam. This will provide your brain with much-needed energy and prevent it from lagging.

I hope some combination of all of the aforementioned tips, tricks, and advice will be of great help to you and help you prepare for an exam better! Most importantly don’t get frustrated with yourself. If you get stuck on some topic, move on then circle back. And remember practice, practice, and then practice some more! Because practice makes permanent.

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Category: exams