Surviving Exams

If you’re facing mid-terms or final exams, you may be stressing out. It’s never too late to build good habits, though, so we’re here to share our ideas on surviving exams (and perhaps even learning more effectively in the process).


Compare Notes with Classmates

After class, meet up with a friend and trade notes. If you missed something, fill in the gaps. Your notes are an essential foundation for all your studying for exams. Missing information means you’ll probably come up short on a test question.

Study a Little Each Day

We espouse the benefits of daily reviews here. When we first wrote about the Cornell Method, we felt that the most important and effective part was the scheduled review. You’re consolidating information in your brain at the right time. That means you’ll learn it better and retain it for longer.

Try Flash Cards

Writing material by hand helps you learn it. Creating flash cards to use during your study periods is a reliable way of building higher recognition of the subject.

Schedule a Regular Weekly Review

Daily reviews solidify information at a granular level, and weekly reviews take it up a level. You’ll see how concepts fit together – an important facet of the critical thinking you’ll need to develop in your education. Set a time on your calendar (e.g., Saturday afternoon) to review the whole week’s material for each class.

Join a Study Group

We’ve dedicated a past post to the benefits of a study group. It can help fill the gaps, solidify your understanding and give you confidence.

Focus: Turn Off Distractions

Ah, social media. Ooh, television. Hey, party people. JUST SAY NO. Studying comes first – turn off your phone, just for a while. Use the Pomodoro Technique to study in smaller chunks if you must. Just don’t check your phone all the time – the task switching stunts your learning.

Get a Tutor

Having troubles? Get a tutor to help you. It’ll be worth the investment.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Feed your brain good food. Eating toxic junk food all the time is a recipe for trouble – your brain needs good sources of energy, so eat healthy food before your exams.


Study, then sleep. Rest is important to absorb and store the data you’re ingesting. Studies show the positive outcomes from proper rest – the brain is clearing out hazardous waste that allows you to learn and remember things.


Taking the Test

Sit in Your Usual Place

Your mind actually processes data as you sit in your seat listening to a lecture. Changing seats means your brain has to store various bits that it might not normally need – so sitting in the same location not only helps you learn, it also helps your recall.

Decide Your Priority for Answering Questions

When you open your test, set a strategy for how you want to tackle it. Read the entire test first! Do you want to try the hard questions first to make sure you get them completed? Or get your rhythm by starting on the easy ones? Set up a plan at the outset, and then execute.

Read Questions Carefully

Be sure you’ve read each question a couple of times before you dive in.

Estimate, Don’t Guess

Guessing can be hazardous to your grades. If you can’t recall the exact year of the Treaty of Versailles, put in a calculated estimate (e.g., as World War I ended, with the 1920s just around the corner…). Get close rather than wrong.


Surviving Exams

High school and college tests can be scary – perhaps you’re under pressure from your parents or others who expect that you’re taking advantage of your educational opportunities. Stressing out only makes it worse, and having good habits makes surviving exams much easier. Prepare regularly, and then take your exams with confidence and a familiar, practiced approach. The results will undoubtedly help you improve your test grades.

We share these kinds of tips regularly, so if you find them helpful, please visit regularly…


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