Exam Preparation

Useful study techniques

Half-hour pass strategy

Exam preparation plan

From Day 1
Exams can cover a whole semester's work. Your timetable and your summaries are the basis of effective and efficient exam preparation. As you go through the semester, keep your notes of the textbook chapters, Study Book modules and Selected Readings up to date. Use these in your revision times to make one-page summaries of these topics or modules as you complete each one.

Make summary cards of main points, key definitions, formulae, and steps in the processes you have to understand. Refer to these cards regularly during your study periods and carry them with you so you can test yourself in spare moments, e.g. when travelling.

From the first month
Refer to your studydesk for past exam papers or talk with past students about their experiences. By now you might be able to answer some of the exam questions. As you finish each topic check to see if you can do the related exam question if it is present). Keep summarising!

3 - 5 Weeks Before
Around three to five weeks before exams it is the time to draw up a serious revision timetable. This will replace your usual timetable or study program. You need to:

  • give time to each course which has an exam, at least 8-10 hours each week
  • allow time to complete courses which have a final project or essay
  • organise your time by the modules or topics of the units
  • plan to study when you are most alert
  • give extra time to courses you find difficult 
  • revise work at least three times during this final revision time
  • use the half hour pass strategy
  • use useful study techniques

Think positively - If I put in the work, I will succeed!

  • work through past exam papers
  • work with a study partner or group
  • find out the exam location and organise transport
  • organise exam equipment e.g. ID card, paper, pens, calculator?
  • work out the timing for the exam

The night before
Here are a few hints for the night before your exam.

  • If you have studied well, glance through your summaries/cards
  • Gather exam equipment - pens, ruler, ID card, calculator etc
  • Check transport arrangements
  • Use relaxation/stress management techniques
  • Have adequate sleep

The day of the exam
These are the things you need to do the day or morning of your exam:

  • eat a good breakfast/lunch.
  • check your exam equipment, especially ID cards and calculators
  • arrive 20-30 minutes early.
  • glance through summaries/cards.
  • if possible, choose your favourite position in the exam room.
  • take deep breaths, think positively. Synchronise your watch with the clock in the exam room.


During the exam
In perusal time:

  • read instructions carefully
  • what questions/parts are compulsory?
  • where do you have a choice?
  • eliminate the questions you will not do - those you know only vaguely
  • mark the questions you will do - those you know the best
  • analyse the questions - what are the keywords?
  • jot down ideas/graphs/formulae for answers on the paper (if permitted)
  • calculate the time available for each question.

During your working time:

  • decide on the order of your answers - easiest first to build your confidence
  • start each question on a new page
  • write legibly and double-space your writing - examiners like this!
  • if calculations required, include working and define variables
  • plan short answers and essays - in your exam book;
  • keep to the time limit for each question
  • mental block? - relax, breathe deeply, talk positively to yourself, if necessary leave the question and come back to the question later
  • stop after each question/set of questions and take a short break to relax, stretch
  • check your answers if you have time - don't leave early, you can't come back!
  • out of time? Quickly write notes to finish the question.

After the exam

  • avoid exam post mortems
  • plan to spend time unwinding 
  • remind yourself there is more to life than exams. You are a person beyond your mark!
  • review your schedule for the next exam!