Preparing for Exams


Stage 1: “Keep on top of things”

Time Management

  • Allow 2 hours study time per hour of class time.
  • Review old material before beginning new topics.


  • Throughout the semester, be alert to the emphasis placed on certain topics.
  • Predict the kinds of questions that will be asked (the sciences usually concentrate on objective questions, whereas the humanities use subjective questions).
  • Analyze previous tests
    Always correct/review tests immediately after getting them back; be sure you understand your errors.

    • Did you have time to finish?
    • Where did you lose most of your points?
    • Was vocabulary a problem?
    • Were you surprised at your grade?
  • Use these tests to predict the types of questions that will appear on subsequent tests/exams.

Stage 2: “Getting organized: The final 2 weeks!”

  • Use your calendar to organize study time for each class.
  • Make a table of contents sheet based on the lectures or text.
  • Make a study sheet for each topic cited on the table of contents
  • Try a group discussion if a test is essay oriented.
    • Include no more than 5 people.
    • Be sure you do a lot of the talking, but do not run the discussion! Remember the key is to get as many ideas out on the table as possible.
    • Stay on task.
    • Limit discussions to 45 minutes.

Stage 3: “The Night Before”

  • Review only your study sheets. Do not attempt to learn new information.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.

Study Sheets

Study sheets help to consolidate the information from class notes, text book notes and old tests or quizzes.

Questions and Answers

  • Why? They promote active learning; force you to consolidate, elaborate, and associate.
  • How do you use them? Look at a topic, word, etc.-look away and recite. Use memory devices (association, visualization, rhymes, acronyms, etc.).
  • How do you make study sheets? Take topic one from your table of contents and create one of the following study sheets based on the type of questions you have predicted.
    • Vocabulary sheets or cards.
    • Identification sheets or cards (name/concept in one column or on one side).
    • Question/Answer: Phrase questions you might encounter. Outline answers using details underneath or on reverse of card.
    • Mental Elaboration: Jot down thoughts-argue, evaluate, judge, take a position.
    • Compare & Contrast.
    • Quantitative: Problem/formula card.

Also use your lecture notes and/or text notes: TRY NOT TO REREAD YOUR LECTURE NOTES OR TEXT NOTES; use only the information in your margins/underlined items. Try mapping (see note taking section) to aid comprehension, reduction, and retention.