Last Updated on June 26, 2022 by Laura Turner
Preparing for an exam is the same as preparing for any other major event you might encounter. Just like a football player prepares for Friday night’s game or a pianist practices for their upcoming recital, preparation should be completed just like it is the main event. When preparing for a major exam, set the scene up like it is the day of the test.
First order of business is finding a location that is most conducive to studying for you. This might be a quiet location like the library, a place with background noise like a coffee shop, or your favorite nook on campus. Finding the correct place to study for you is very important for concentration and retention of information. If the location does not provide you with the ability to focus on your studies, then try a new place until you find what works best.
Now that you’ve found your sweet study spot, it is time to get to work. Ideally you will study for this exam at least a few minutes each day. Work backwards from the date of the exam to know how much material you should successfully cover each day or week in order to be ready for test day. This might require planning your test day out months in advance to adequately prepare for all the material you will need to cover.
Whether you can devote a few hours or just 20 minutes, get in the habit of focusing time each day on exam prep. For those days that you really just aren’t in the mood, set a 20-minute timer and know that when the timer goes off you can be done. This technique also works well for those who tend to procrastinate or let their mind wander too much. Setting a timer allows you to stay focused on your task at hand by knowing you only have a finite time period. If you do have several hours set aside for studying, make sure you take breaks to give your brain a chance to breathe and you will be less likely to get burnt out.
Each time you study for your entrance exam, ask yourself questions in the same format you will see them on test day. This means you must research and understand what the exam will entail. What types of questions will be asked? Do you need to know facts or will they ask comprehensive or analysis questions? The more you know about the exam you are preparing for, the better you can tailor your studying techniques.
Create study aids for yourself based on how you best organize the material for retention. This can be developing charts, graphs, flashcards, note or outline pages, or any other materials that will aid in studying. Just the simple act of re-writing important material is very beneficial to the retention of information. When creating these materials, make sure you organize them in a logical order and with references to where you obtained the information. If you have further questions about a specific piece of information, you now will have the exact page to refer to for more information.
Study aids should be very simplistic and understandable to you when reviewing them. For example, you should not write a paragraph on one flashcard, because that is too much information for one card. Rather, paraphrase and stick to one idea within a topic; write something that will make sense to you without needing more than a couple sentences. This goes for all study aids. Each one should cover the major points with examples if needed, but it should never be an essay.
As you begin studying, keep track of information or questions you don’t fully understand. These will be the ones you spend more time learning and reviewing. When you begin to grasp the information on this list, it will become shorter and shorter. This does not mean you neglect the information you’ve already learned. It is important to keep reviewing all the information so you stay prepared and exam-ready.
Although it might feel weird at first, reading and talking out loud can aid your retention of the information. It engages two types of mental storage: hearing and seeing, which gives you double the chance of recalling it when it comes to test day.
Utilizing a study group can be very beneficial for large-scale entrance exams. This can divide the workload among several people, and make quicker work of creating study aids. By talking through problems or information, this helps you with retention and understanding of information. If you are able to correctly explain a specific topic to another individual, this shows you have a strong understanding of the material and can move on with your studies.
In addition to study groups, engage in conversations with people who have taken the exam before you. Ask them tips and tricks for being successful. They can be a great resource for guiding you in topics you should focus on while studying and those topics you might not otherwise need to cover. Learning from their mistakes and successes can benefit greatly.
As with any goal you set, you should also give yourself a reward when the goal is accomplished. Set goals throughout your studying that will keep you motivated and encouraged. This can be as simple as being able to explain a difficult concept or formula to someone or even rewarding yourself for studying every day for a week. Build goals and rewards into your study plan so you can keep track of your progress.
Lastly, make sure to get a good night’s rest the night before the exam. The morning of the exam, eat a healthy and hearty breakfast or make sure to eat a snack before the test. Feeling hungry will be an unnecessary distraction that can easily be avoided. When getting ready for the actual exam, make sure to be prepared for all types of situations: bring extra writing utensils, a jacket (in case the room is cold), and water. And above all, BREATHE, have confidence, and remember that all your hard work will pay off!