We’ve made silly mistakes and not done ourselves justice when it came to exam time.

Who hasn’t spent too long on an answer to a question? Answered the wrong question? Maybe you couldn’t even answer a single question? These moments haunt us the moment we leave the exam room. The purpose of this blog post is to give you ten ways of making sure that you are well prepared for the dreaded exams, and do as well as you can on the day.

Whether you are a University student or you are in the final years of secondary school, one of the most mentally exhausting times of the year is surely when exam season comes around.


Exams do more than test our academic knowledge; they also pose a challenge to our sense of discipline, commitment and confidence. Overcoming these fears can be accomplished through effective time management, and by planning for exams from the time our course commences, instead of leaving it all to the last minute and allowing panic to take hold of us.

Some successful strategies to adopt to ensure the best possible outcome at exam time, include:

1. Creating a study plan

About a week or two into your course, it should be clear how much time you need to revise notes and undertake additional research, in order to stay updated with your course content. When making your study plan, make sure not to allocate too much time to one subject and allow for leisure activities and free time with family and friends.

If you allocate a specific amount of hours to one subject, try to stick to your plan strictly. This will force you to make the most of your time by discouraging distractions (such as television breaks or Internet surfing). A strict time schedule will also force you to adopt efficient study aids there are (for instance, mind maps, which can shorten revision time considerably).

The key to a good study plan is viewing exam revision as a continuous process instead of a short, intense burst of activity at the end of a course/trimester or semester. At least once a week, revise all your notes and summarise or highlight key points. Doing this will ensure that important ideas are fresh in your mind when exams roll around.

2. Not getting bogged down

Some students find that despite spending inordinate amounts of time on study, their exam results do not reflect the effort expended.

This can indicate that time is not being used wisely; for instance, students may be spending too much time researching one small aspect of a subject rather than keeping the larger picture in mind. This is why learning maps can be such a useful aid they establish the main and subsidiary elements of a subject or theme and guide you on where you should place the greatest effort.

3. Practice, practice, practice

You will find old exam papers for GCSE’s and A levels online at the examining board websites. At University, most libraries have copies of past exams in a given subject. These are some of the best resources you will find, since they will usually contain a similar exam structure to what you might expect to find.

Above all, past exams can help you train to answer a set amount of questions in a set amount of time. If you find exams which were set by the same lecturer or teacher who is currently teaching you, they will be doubly useful, since they will provide important insight into the type of questions you can expect.

4. Checking your notes

Attending classes and lectures is key, since the contents of your notes are the clearest indicator of the aspects which your teacher/professor deems most important. Don’t go off into tangents when studying; focus on the same elements your teacher does.

5. Starting a study group

If you find that working with friends does not distract you, you may decide to start a study group. Stay focused and bring up key questions during revision sessions.

Studying with others and discussing important topics can enlighten you on fascinating new ideas and approaches which you may decide to bring up in an exam. Observe the study habits of the most successful students in your group and emulate them.

6. Using your tutorials

Your tutor will normally be available at specific times to answer questions and doubts. List down your biggest doubts and queries, so your tutor can address all these issues within the allocated time.

7. Getting an early night’s sleep

If you have stuck to your study plan, then there will be no reason for cramming the night before an exam. Sleep deprivation can cause you to commit errors and can negatively affect your ability to retain information.

If you are nervous the day before an exam, seek out natural ways to get rid of the stress. Head for the gym for a tiring workout, have a relaxing bath, or diffuse essential oils like lavender throughout a room to promote a sense of calm. Face even the toughest exams with a calm and confident stance; your results will reveal the consistent efforts you have made.

8. Time management

If you find that you are going over the allocated time in one particular question or part, skip it and come back to it later; otherwise, you could be missing out on easy points you can achieve by answering questions you know.

If the exam is multiple-choice, make sure you leave no questions unanswered; a few lucky guesses may make an important difference to the marks you achieve.

9. Answering the question

In essay-type exams, students often make the mistake of writing down absolutely all the information they know or remember on a specific point, instead of simply providing the information they have been requested to. This can annoy the examiner and wrest from the clarity and quality of the essay.

10. Hanging around

If you have finished 10, 20 minutes or even half an hour before the allocated time for an exam, do not leave; use this time to revise the questions, ensuring all have been answered.

Take a look at your answers; is there an interesting fact or opinion you have failed to mention in an essay-type question, or have you answered a multiple choice question wrong because you misread what the examiner was asking?  This is also a good time to check for unprofessional looking errors like grammar and spelling mistakes.

I hope that you have found these tips useful, and can put them to practical use in your exam preparation. All that remains is to wish you the best of luck!



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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.