Preparing to Study
Studying for an exam more than cramming sessions
o ongoing process - begins on the first day of classes
o managing your time
o learning effectively from lectures, labs, and texts
o developing a foundation – First set of notes start off your pre-exam review
Assess Progress and Set Goals
The first step in preparing for a test or exam:
How much it is worth? (what % of your final mark) and
what marks you are getting in the course so far
This will help you to prioritize and allocate study time. You also need to know:
Your long-term goals (graduate school?) and
How they're connected to this particular course
o Is the course required for your program?
o What mark would you like to get?
o What results will you need on this particular test or exam to achieve that mark?
o What implications does this have for your approach to preparing for this test or exam?
Review Material Regularly
When you review what you have learned in your courses from the first day of classes a little bit every
day, you brain consolidates and integrates all the information so you don’t have to cram
By taking these steps, you'll be able to use pre-exam study time to review rather than relearn (or learn)
Daily review: Edit class notes as soon as possible after class to fill in gaps. Review notes quickly
Weekly review: At the end of each week, take an hour to do a structured review for each course,
integrating class and text notes
Make summary notes of important concepts and information
Look at the specific material covered that week, and also at how this information relates to the
course as a whole
Major review: Begin extensive review 1-3 weeks before the test or exam
Use the Instructor and Teaching Assistant as Resources During the semester and particularly as exams approach, see the instructor or TA for assistance
with any content you don't understand. If they have scheduled a review class, go prepared with
questions to ask
Tactfully gather as much information about the test as you can. Although it is not appropriate to
ask specifically what will be asked on an exam, there is nothing wrong with requesting
information on, for example, approximately how much of the material will be coming from
lectures vs. readings
Be sure to attend review sessions
Develop Awareness of What You Don't Understand
Use a study tool such as a concept map or flashcards to pinpoint areas of weakness
Make a list of the concepts, terms, theories, or other knowledge that you don't understand well
Try to find the answers in the text, or ask classmates, the professor, or the TA
Planning Your Time
A big part of studying effectively is knowing when to study and finding the time to do it. By setting
specific goals for your study time, you can avoid procrastination and give yourself a feeling of
accomplishment as your goals are met. Below are some suggestions for planning your study time; for
more detailed information, see go to the following workshops on:
Time management or our comprehensive
Set Study Goals
Know the format and length of the test.
Know what content the test will cover. Is the test cumulative?
When you sit down to study, know what you want to complete in that specific study time.
Make a Study Plan
Divide your available time and your work load into manageable chunks. Study frequently in
shorter periods of time
Pay attention to how much time you're spending on specific study tasks and stay on track with
your study plan
Plan breaks (e.g., 10 minutes for every hour of studying). Build some free time into your
schedule to allow for unforeseen things. Be flexible
Focus your energy on studying, not playing catch up. If you are already behind, try to prioritize,
concentrating on the material most likely to appear on the exam.