Advice Leading Up to Exams

Divide and Conquer

Homer Simpson flipping through a textbook.

Reduce your studying stress by breaking up the material into chunks! GIF from here.

I find it helpful to divide my studying and reviews into daily chunks, in order to master that piece of information before moving on. For example, if I know my textbook has 16 chapters, or my notes are about 40 pages, I divide the readings into equal portions, leaving a day or two for a full review before the exam. Make studying easier by dividing and conquering the material!

Take short breaks 

Spongebob saying "Break time!"

Break time is my favourite part about studying. GIF from here.

If you’re like me, you won’t have any trouble with taking breaks. However, the key word is ‘short’. After about an hour and a half of productivity, a 10 minute break will allow you to get a snack, recharge, scroll through Instagram and Twitter, and jump back into studying with a clear mind.

Write out (or rewrite) as much as you can

Someone taking notes.

Trust me, writing and rewriting your notes is the key to success. GIF from here.

Writing things down helps with your memory, and that’s what I am suggesting you do when studying. If you take notes on your laptop, print out those notes, and then write them in a notebook. If you already take notes with a pen and paper, rewrite them. The notes might be super long, though, so if that is the case, write out the main ideas from each chapter, or the concepts you struggle with the most.

Figure out how you concentrate best

Ross doing his "quiet down" hand gesture

Ross likes to concentrate in quiet environments. GIF from here.

Some people like to study in loud areas and surrounded by a lot sounds and people, while others need to be in a silent room. I personally like to listen to songs I don’t know the names to, or TV shows I’ve watched thousands of times when I need to concentrate. Whatever your ideal study environment is, put yourself in that place in order to eliminate distractions and be most productive.

Review the material with others 

The cast of Community walking down the hall together.

Probably be more productive than the cast of Community but you know what I mean. GIF from here.

Study groups can be helpful if it is clear that you’re all there to study and not socialize the entire time. By reviewing the material with other people, you can test each other, discuss the chapters and lecture information, and have confusing concepts explained in a new way. It is also helpful to “teach” the material to other people, because if you can explain something to someone else, chances are you know your stuff.


Dylan O'Brien waking up from a nap with paper on his face.

This was literally me a couple days ago. GIF from here.

This semester I promised myself I would not compromise my sleep to do schoolwork. Of course I broke my promise on occasion, but for the most part, I made sure I was getting enough sleep. There will be instances where you absolutely have to stay up to go over your notes, but for the most part, sleeping is more beneficial. Especially when you’ll probably fall asleep on your textbook or at your laptop an hour later anyway (this happened to me very recently).

Go to the library or Student Learning Centre hours in advance of your exam

My notebook, iPod, Booster Juice and Windows Surface on the table of my cubicle in the library.

Last semester I snagged a cubicle by the window in the library hours before my exam, and it made me feel so much more relaxed knowing I had time to prepare!

Unless my exam is at 9am, I try to hit up the library or SLC 5-6 hours in advance of my exam. This allows me to calm myself down, prepare in a quiet space, and give myself ample time to go over my notes. The library is always a good idea during exam season, and I recommend getting there early to get a spot!

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