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How to Prepare for Exams Like a Pro

Student preparing for exams


It is getting colder outside, and any student knows what it means: it is coming up on finals! It also means long nights of studying, stress, and probably some nightmares. How to avoid all of that? Be prepared and enter the exam room like a King or Queen. Finals are all about getting the best grade possible. The team of experts from has already gone through this.

However, the thing is that no one really teaches us how to study. We tend to go with what feels intuitively right. But the techniques students think are the most intuitive, often tend not to be the most effective ones. So, if you have got exams coming up, then by the end of this article, you will pick up some methods that you can apply to your studies to make everything a little bit more efficient and enjoyable. So, whether you are cramming for an exam in a couple of days or studying for one in a few months' time, we have gathered for you the best strategies you should try to follow for your best chance of success.

Let's jump into it!

Three Efficient Ways to Prepare for Exams

Rereading is one of the most popular revision techniques. It plays the biggest part of most students’ exam preparation strategy. But sometimes, it all comes down not only to the way you consume new information but to the particular schedule you apply to remember the largest amount of data. So, here are some tips on how to make your exam preparation more efficient.

Tip 1. Get the Context

Believe us, it is one of the essential steps to get A+ for exams. You can mindlessly memorize dates, equations, or answers, but a teacher can always differ students who understand what they are talking about and a person who just quotes the textbook. You aim to get context to see the whole picture of a subject. Context acts like a memory network to which you can attach all details. First, you make connections, and then later, remember things easier. To get there fast, read the class syllabus, skim through textbooks, and review all the materials without going into details.

If it is difficult for you or you do not have time for that, apply another approach. If you are studying Roman history, watch an epic movie about Caesar in the evening to get the context. If it is physics, go visit a science museum and try to understand what is going on. Once you have seen the big picture, chunk it up and make a plan. If there are ten chapters to learn and five days to do that, cover two chapters a day.

Tip 2. Break Your Studying into Sessions

The average student can pay attention for about 25-30 minutes. This goes across the board, from lectures to reading and studying. After that time, your efficiency starts to taper off, that is why advice like “study more” is not an effective one. Instead, you want to break study sessions into 20-30 minutes chunks. After those are done, take a five-minutes break where you do something away from the subject you were studying. That will maximize your retention and keep creativity up.

And to be precise, use an alarm clock. We are quite familiar with students’ temptation to take a break every ten minutes. Finish your session with an instant self-test to check your understanding. According to studies, such quick tests can improve retention by up to 30%.

Tip 3. Practice

If you want to be prepared for the exam, you need to know what exactly to expect. We are talking about the format and the formulation of the questions, types of tasks, and time that is given to a student. So, the best option is to practice using the old version of previous exams. For some students, the templates of exams are available online, for others it may be required to go to the admission office to see and get the copy of it.

Spaced Repetition as One the Most Effective Ways to Prepare for Exams

Thinking student


What is a spaced repetition? As the name suggests, it is the method of studying when you space your repetition of particular subjects over a period of time, in the contrast of cramming (another popular revision technique). When you cram for a test the next day, you will probably remember a lot of information in a couple of hours, and it will be in your short-term memory. But the next day, you will completely forget about it. So, cramming is sort of not ideal if we are talking about retaining stuff in long-term memory.

We suggest you try a technique of spaced repetition. The idea behind it is that instead of cramming things into a single day, you spread out your revision over time and review topics ideally by the active recall at particular intervals. Why does this work? It is because of something that is called “forgetting curve.” Over time, we forget things at an exponential rate. So, how we can take advantage of it? 

Every time we interrupt the forgetting code, it then takes longer for us to forget something. Let's say today you studied the anatomy of the upper limb, and then you reviewed it the next day. In such a simple way, you have interrupted the forgetting curve. So, while previously, you might have forgotten half of the material by tomorrow, now you are going to forget 25% of it by the following day. If you review the data again three days later, you will go back to 100%. So, the more time you do this, the more spaced out your repetition becomes, the more likely you are to encode all of this information into long-term memory.   

There is also a phenomenon in psychology literature we want to explain to you. The idea is that the harder your brain has to work to retrieve something from it, the stronger that information gets encoded. So, the point behind spaced repetition is that you allow your brain to forget some of the data such that when you revise it again, it will not be a mindless repetition, it will actually take you some brainpower.

So, how to prepare for exams like a pro? The first thing to do is to choose the right strategy and technique; the second one is to devote at least 70% of your free time to getting the context of the subject and memorizing data. Finish your preparation with the same thing – imagine your emotions after getting A+ for an exam. Believe it or not, but your visualizations tend to come true.


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