Studying for an exam is different from studying to learn, you need to be strategic because it’s all about getting the best grades possible. So whether you’re cramming for an exam tomorrow or studying for one in a few months’ time, here is the steps strategy you should follow for your best chance of success.
The first is to hacking your exam prep is being clear about what’s on the exam. This might be obvious, but doing this really well will help you be laser focused in the next steps:
If you can, confirm these three things:
You won’t always know this information, but get as many details as possible from your teacher or lecture. Check the course outline or objectives but make sure you attend the final class or lecture before an exam because that’s often where they’ll share more details or advice.
There are 3 general types of exams and you prepare differently for each of them. If you don’t get this right, you’ll crash and burn for sure. The 3 types are memorization, understanding concept, and problem-solving. If you’re short on time, you might be tempted to prepare for a problem-solving exam by memorizing things. That would be a mistake; subjects that typically need a lot of memorization include history, languages and parts of some science classes like biology and anatomy memorization is all about building connections. Using the only repetition to try and remember things doesn’t create connections and that’s why it doesn’t work very well.
Social science subjects and a lot of others have exams based on mainly on understanding concepts. It’s important to have a big perspective and understand how all the smaller pieces of a puzzle fit together. Take the information from lectures, textbook and extra reading material, and organize it according to the major themes and concepts. It’s easiest to do visually, so use mind-maps, flowcharts and diagrams to create your overall perspective, and show the links between details, concepts and the overall subject.
Typical exam questions ask you to evaluate, compare and apply the concepts, so practice doing that and try to use concrete examples top explain answers. The third type of exam is problem-solving which common for engineering, commerce and science course. The key to these exams is doing a lot of problems. But try doing a problem first before reading the theory behind it. Remember, you’ll get most exam marks for doing problems, not knowing the theory, so that sets your study priorities. Instead of reading a chapter in detail and then trying the problems, flip it around.
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