Exam Time!


What’s that smell in the air? Caffeine and stress. Ah, midterms are rolling around again. *insert Beethoven’s 5th Symphony soundtracks* Wait, but I haven’t started studying yet! So I have a week left to prepare for 3 exams. Time to put on the thinking cap. Here are some tips from a pro test taker survivor.

After sitting through so many exams, I have tested (silly pun intended) plenty of methods/hacks/advice for studying.  I have found what works well with me. My typical timeline for an exam prep looks like this:

T-minus 1 week:

Catch up on the lectures and notes I’m behind on. I believe in taking full advantage of the resources available, such as NTC’s and prep courses. Don’t worry about spilling some cash for academics, those GPA points are worth a few hundred dollars. (More posts in the future about how to actually make money from attending school). I divide the work so everyday I review 2-3 lectures for each course, which means I finish reviewing a month’s material with 3 days to spare.

Papers and essays are another story. I start my drafts ASAP, since I take at least 5 edits before I have something presentable.


T-minus 3 days:

For factual/memorization exams, the most effective strategy I found was doing practice exams. For a past economics exam, I didn’t do well on the midterm and I needed to ace the final. The exam was multiple choice and the questions were drawn from a question bank. The teacher provided a previous exam as practice. The first time I worked through the practice exam, I scored roughly 60%. I reviewed all the questions I guessed or got wrong. The next day I re-did and got roughly 75%, and on the third try I had over 90%. At that point, I had basically memorized the definitions and question/answer pairs. On the real exam, the questions were familiar to me. I breezed through it. It was a pleasant surprise when some of the practice questions popped up on the exam too.

For conceptual/problem-solving exams, I like finding a small team of 2-3 other students and discuss practice questions together. Everyone has a unique method to approach the questions. I’ appreciate my study buddies for teaching me that learning exists both inside and outside of the classroom. Thanks, guys!


T-minus 12 hours:

Last thing, all-nighters fueled by caffeine and energy drinks are not a good idea. If you plan to study over-night, it’s best to sneak in a power nap or two. An upperclassman once said to me that before an exam, she puts her notes under the pillow so she can just passively absorb the information. She said it worked through the principle of osmosis. That’s not what osmosis is about, but the good news is that studies confirm people retain information better after taking a nap after studying.

Hit the books and hit the pillows. Best of luck!


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