Test and Exam Preparation

Test and exam preparation can be seen as a challenge and can be overwhelming for many students. However, by viewing test and exam preparation as a group of strategies and plans, you can make the overall task less daunting. Being well prepared and planning purposeful study sessions is key to managing stress around test and exam time.

Tests and exams are often a significant part of academic assessment, and therefore allowing sufficient time to prepare for them is essential. Be proactive and try and work steadily throughout the semester to prepare. This will make the test or exam period more manageable. During the semester, revise lecture notes, readings and resources to keep the information fresh in your mind. If there are areas that you are unclear about, approach your lecturers and tutors to clarify information. A good place to start is to use your unit outline and lecture notes to create an overview of the unit; this could be visual (e.g., a mind map), written notes, or an audio recording. Remember to highlight key concepts and connections between concepts. As it gets closer to test or exam time, study sessions should be better prepared and scheduled. Make a personal study timetable, and ensure that times and breaks are realistic. Consider the following when planning and preparing a study session: 

  • When do I study best... morning, afternoon, or evening?
  • How do I like to study... listening to recordings, reading over notes, discussing information with peers, looking over diagrams or charts?
  • How long do I want to study for... a short burst or a long session?
  • Is my study space free from distractions, and do I have everything I need?

Once a study session is locked in, plan the revision session and make sure it is purposeful and focused. Divide study blocks into achievable realistic chunks, and also divide the time up equally between the subjects you are studying, and then between the selected topics within each subject. 

Purposeful revision strategies:

  • Reduce your class notes and readings to key headings and points. Select the most important theories, references and evidence for each topic.
  • Create overviews of your topics and use easy reference cards or an A3 sized mind map.
  • Determine how many topics you need to revise for the test or exam. If you need to answer three sections then you could revise 5 areas, for instance.
  • Write out or audio record what you have learnt. Revise what you have learnt THREE times to build up your memory.
  • Work out answers to a range of possible questions for your test or exam. Practice answers to possible questions. 
  • Use past test or exam papers if available. This allows you to become familiar with the wording, to get used to the “style” of the exams, and to look for patterns of recurring questions. Sit your own ‘mock’ test or exam and actively check your own learning. Like most things, test and exam performance improves with practice.
  • Build up your writing speed and accuracy. Lecturers are looking for quality answers that are coherent and concise, not quantity. Time yourself without looking at your notes and learn to pace yourself for the test or exam.