Preparing for an exam actually begins at the beginning of the course and is refined in the days leading up to the test. Taking good notes in class is an important step in studying for exams. When a student organizes and reviews the notes before each class, the student is learning the material as the course progresses, instead of trying to cram everything into one study session before the test. It is also important to keep up with readings in the textbook, handouts, and other material presented in class, as to be fully prepared for studying sessions. Try to schedule a longer period of time at least once a week to review course materials. These, in essence, are mini study sessions which will help the student learn material that may be tested on the final exam.
Plan on beginning to study for the test at least a week before it will be given. Students should try to estimate how much time they will need to study – it is better to have extra time to study instead of not enough time! Then set aside time throughout the week before the exam to study. It may help to actually write down in an organizer or planner the time set aside so that other activities do not get planned during the blocks of study time.
When the teacher explains what will be on the exam and the format of the exam (multiple choice questions, essays, matching, etc.), take detailed and organized notes. Then, using this information, organize your notes and other materials (including assignments that have been graded and handed back) according to what will be on the test. Decide which information you will study during the study sessions already blocked off throughout the week so that there is enough time to study all of the materials.
During study sessions, try to anticipate what questions the instructor will ask on the exams. Has the instructor given any handouts that outline the key concepts, vocabulary, readings, etc.? These will most likely be on the exam. Questions asked on quizzes may appear again on the final exam. It is also helpful to review other tests you have taken in the course, as they are indicators as to the format the instructor may use. In the classes just prior to the exam, pay attention to the questions the instructor asks the class, to any terms or notes the instructor writes on the board, and to when the instructor reviews material already covered in class. These are clues that this information will appear on the exam.
Begin by studying content that is the most difficult. You will be the freshest, most alert, and less distracted at the beginning of a study session, so this is the best time to study difficult material. Make flash cards, study guides, potential questions, and even mock exams to test yourself on the material. And try to finish studying the night before the exam so that you are not overwhelmed the day of the test.