Exam Preparation 101: Best Ways To Prepare For College Exams

[Editor’s Note:  The advice expressed in this article is the author’s own and is not necessarily endorsed by The Valedictorian’s Guide.]

By Jim Raychrudhury

Preparing for the final examinations can be challenging if you don’t know where to begin and how to go about it. Many students use ineffective techniques that increase their risk of getting poor grades. Here are tips on how to prepare for your examinations effectively.

How to Succeed in School and Still Have a Little Fun

Create a Study Schedule

You need to stay engaged throughout the semester to increase your chances of passing the final exams. One way to stay engaged is to create a study schedule. A good strategy is to devote 60 to 90 minutes a day for each subject in which you will have a final exam. Figure out what time of the day you are most productive and how long you can maintain focus. You might also want to consider the environment you best study in. Come up with a detailed schedule based on these factors.

Organize Study Groups With Friends

For some people, it’s helpful to join a study group. A study group provides more brain power and motivation if done well. Keep your study group to a small size to avoid distractions. A group of more than six people is unlikely to be effective. You should also ensure everyone has exchanged contact information to enable you to reach each other and plan your studies easily.

Improve Your Memory With Brain Food

Eat foods that can power up your brain and make it very effective during the exam period. This is the time you want to see your plate full of arugula, radish, turnip, broccoli and cauliflower. You might also consider berries, walnuts and fish. You should also drink a lot of water to help flush out toxins from your brain.

Study Every Day

You need to study every day to increase your chances of passing the exam. Devote a bit of your time every day to the courses you prioritize. This will help reduce the levels of anxiety caused by cramming at the last minute. It might help to incorporate study time into your planner just like any other daily activity and stick to it.

Get Enough Sleep

Do not study deep into the hours of the night before the exam. Trust what you have captured and go to sleep. Lack of sleep will impair your reasoning and memory significantly. Just approach the exams with confidence and believe you will pass. Be wary of using coffee or other substances to boost your energy levels. Such options may throw your body off-balance for the rest of the day.

Figure Out What Will Be Covered During the Exams

You have to know what materials are going to be tested so that you can limit your study to them. This includes readings, discussions and materials from the lecturer. Make sure you know whether the exams will cover the content since the midterm or for the whole semester.

Take a Mock Test

Do not just cram the whole day or summarize the contents you are reading. Instead, test yourself using flash cards or take practice exams. This technique is more effective if done repeatedly.

Attend Review Sessions

Make sure to attend review sessions organized by the lecturers or other students. Review sessions will help you identify exactly what topics to focus on during the study. Some lecturers will give you a full list of what will be tested. This information can help you save time by focusing on the relevant areas.

Take Regular Breaks When Studying

Sometimes it is good to allow your system to cool down and reboot. Take breaks at intervals of one hour for at least five minutes. Avoid checking your email or going on Facebook during breaks since you are likely to get carried away. You can also alternate study spots to enhance your concentration levels and increase the rate at which your brain retains information.

You don’t have to burn the midnight oil to pass your exams. You just need an effective study plan. Try the tips discussed above, and you will have yourself to thank later.

Author Bio:  Jim Raychrudhury is a freelance writer and passionate blogger who likes writing articles that cover career, education and business related topics. He has written numerous articles and contributed to several other blogs. When he is not writing, he enjoys spending time outdoors with his family.


Want study tips from valedictorians, Rhodes scholars, and more?  Then check out The Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College.

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Quick Tips Part 6: How to Study Actively

By Stefanie Weisman

Did you know you learn better when you study actively?  Next time you have a test, instead of passively reading and re-reading your textbook, try the following active study techniques:

  • Explain concepts in your own words, to yourself or someone else.  Remember: it’s okay to talk to yourself!
  • Make review sheets/ Write out the main points.
  • Join a study group in which you and the other members test each other on the material.
  • Write and re-write things — like names, dates, formulas, vocabulary, and verb conjugations — from memory.
  • Draw out/ diagram complex concepts.
  • Do practice problems — and don’t look at the answers until you’re done!
  • Take practice tests provided by your teacher.
  • Think up potential test questions (and answer them).
  • Test yourself with flash cards, lists, etc.

For more study tips, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

Top 10 Learning Techniques: Which Are Most Efficient?

10 Learning Techniques: Which Are Most Efficient?

Infographic provided by Online Education Blog of Touro College.


For more tips on studying and much more, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

The Survival Guide — 3 Tips for AP Test Takers (Guest Post)

Guest Post by Robert Boyd
Rob is the guy you want on your Trivial Pursuit team: He knows a little bit about a lot of things.

You can ace the AP!

You can ace the AP!

Heading north toward the mountains, I packed my bags and piled into a bus with many of my closest friends. We would be spending the weekend at a campsite complete with fire pits, eight-inch-high ping- pong tables and a large mess hall, but this wasn’t a typical camping trip. This was calculus camp: a two-and-a-half day cram session filled with derivatives, functions and integrals and our final review before taking the AP test.

Math never came easy to me, but I passed the calculus AP test, largely because of that marathon study weekend. Maybe it was the mountain air, but more likely the collaborative spirit and valuable practice led to success. You don’t have to get out of town to pass AP tests. Keep these three resources in mind to achieve high scores.

Prep Courses & Apps

A growing number of students are taking AP tests, and test prep providers have responded with an array of courses. In 2011, 903,630 graduates had taken at least one AP exam, compared to 431,573 graduates ten years earlier, according to Collegeboard.org. Students have few excuses to be unprepared. A variety of online and in-person prep courses accommodate students of all levels.

Benchprep.com, for example, offers subject-specific virtual courses that offer hundreds of test questions, dozens of flashcards and multiple mini-tests. Best of all, these courses are available on both computer and mobile platforms, so test prep can take place anytime, anywhere. Some additional test prep apps are available here.

No matter how convenient, however, digital courses can’t compete with live, in-person training. Personal tutoring with a teacher or experienced tutor is invaluable when it comes to tackling difficult concepts.

Study Groups

Long study sessions can get monotonous and frustrating, especially when you’re trying to unpack a new concept. One of the easiest ways to avoid academic burnout and learn efficiently is to study in groups. By learning AP material with other test takers, you’ll be able use each other’s strengths. For some great tips on how to study efficiently in groups, check out Casact.org and infoplease.com.

In a nutshell, here are some rules to follow when working in groups:

  • Don’t let the group get too large. Aim for no more than five or six people.
  • Have an agenda for each meeting and stick to it!
  • Designate someone to be the leader for each meeting.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions! That’s why you’re there.

Practice Tests

Knowing the concepts is one thing, but conditioning yourself for the pressures of an actual exam is an entirely separate battle. The best way to prepare for test conditions is by putting yourself under the gun with a practice test. Find some free test prep material at Collegeboard.com, or buy previous versions of AP tests for $25. Stay within the time guidelines, use the right pencil and of course, no peeking at your notes.

Taking timed tests will push your ability to think under pressure. With all this preparation, you’ll have college credit in the bag. Still feeling unprepared? Try a camping trip instead. It worked for me.


Want to improve your grades?   Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!