how to study for exam

Have you ever felt stressed and anxious before an upcoming test? Do you wish you knew how to study for exams more effectively to be fully prepared and confident when the day arrives? Taking exams is a fact of life for students, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a miserable experience.

By learning critical strategies for successful exam preparation, you can tackle tests head-on and demonstrate your abilities rather than letting anxiety get in the way. Read on to discover essential exam prep tips that will set you up for success on your next test.

How to Get Started with Exam Study

Formulating the groundwork for productive studying is essential before diving into practice problems or cramming content. Follow this initial exam prep checklist to kickstart your test prep:

  • Analyse Past Tests: Review previous tests from your teacher to see what material and format to expect. Understanding the test structure will help guide your study plan.
  • Know the Material Being Tested: Go through your notes, textbooks, study guides, and other course resources to determine the scope of information that could be assessed.
  • Make a Study Calendar: Create a schedule for the weeks/days leading up to the exam, allocating study time for each topic—space out your preparation over time.
  • Gather Study Resources: Compile notes, flashcards, practice tests, study guides, and other materials needed for review. Having everything handy will make studying more efficient.
  • Eliminate Distractions: Find a designated study space and set aside uninterrupted time to focus. Silent phone notifications and avoid social media to concentrate fully.

Setting the stage for success upfront will make your exam prep efforts more targeted and less stressful. Now, explore proven methods for studying effectively and retaining the material.

How to Make a Study Plan for Exams

With so much subject matter to cover for exams, establishing an organised study plan is instrumental to your success. Here are some study tips:

  • Prioritise Topics: Start by designating your heaviest-weighted and most difficult subjects as top priorities for the bulk of study time. Don’t overlook lower-weighted areas, but be strategic with effort allocation.
  • Break Down Key Ideas: Within each topic, identify central themes, formulas to memorise, facts and figures to know, sample problems to work on, and other core areas to focus study sessions around.
  • Block Time Wisely: Map designated blocks for each priority topic across days/weeks in your calendar, factoring in class, activities, family time, rest, and spaced repetition. Studying a little daily over an extended period leads to better retention and less stress than last-minute cramming.
  • Mix-Up Study Format: Combine various study formats like reviewing notes, flashcards, practice problems, group reviews, self-quizzes, and videos to maximise This diversity of learning materials and interactions enhances motivation, interest, and real-world connection for enhanced memory storage.
  • Set Milestone Check-Ins: As you work through material, creating summaries, charts, and quiz cards, periodically self-test on subsets using practice questions to ensure you’re tracking well towards thorough comprehension and aren’t developing misconceptions. Identify and remedy weak spots revealed through low-score areas.

How to Make a Study Space Conducive to Learning

Your physical study environment impacts concentration, motivation, and ability to retain information. Set yourself up for exam success by cultivating an enriching  atmoshere for review sessions:

  • Location: Choose a dedicated nook like a quiet bedroom, library spot, or desk area absent from disruptive noises, conversations, electronics, and other disturbances.
  • Set the Mood: Play soft classical or relaxation music at low volume if it aids your focus. Adjust lighting to avoid glare but incorporate bright natural light to energize alertness.
  • Get Comfortable: Use a supportive chair cushion if sitting for long periods. Maintain good posture and ergonomics to sustain back health and attentional stamina without strain during study bouts.
  • Stay Hydrated and Fed: Keep water, healthy snacks, or gum nearby to maintain energy, hydration, and blood sugar levels for better concentration, but avoid copious, sleep-disrupting caffeine intake.
  • Minimise Clutter: Keep essential reference material in your immediate study zone while storing distracting non-essentials out of sight. Clutter sparks stress, whereas organization promotes mental clarity.
  • Personalise Your Space: Decorate your study area with inspiring quotes, favorite photos, vision boards, affirmation signs, art, plush pillows, flowers, or other uplifting accents to brighten your mood and motivation.
  • Leverage Productivity Tools: Map tasks with sticky notes or project management software. Set timers like the Pomodoro technique to sustain alertness and gauge effort.

Customising a dedicated study area tailored to your unique needs and preferences fosters engagement, stamina, retention, and academic achievement.

Top Studying Mistakes to Avoid

Many common studying mistakes sabotage students’ exam potential. Be mindful to sidestep these all too common pitfalls:

Passive Rereading

Simply rereading notes or textbooks rather than self-testing with flashcards or practice questions yields weak results. Active recall boosts retention exponentially more than passive review by engaging deeper mental processing.

Last Minute Cramming

Cramming late into the night right before exams only imparts a fleeting burst of information that rapidly fades, leaving you frustratingly forgetting facts under pressure. Spaced repetition across an extended prep period best allows for solid encoding.


Listening to music with lyrics, replying to texts, scrolling social sites, or other simultaneous tasks while studying shatters attention, curbs comprehension, and impairs memory registration. Focus and stick rigidly to a single task!

Inadequate Self Testing

Glossing through study guides or cheat sheets provides reassuring familiarity, but skipping genuine challenge testing with sample questions deprives you of the best mechanism for cementing knowledge gaps related to missed problems.


Lack of an agenda mapping daily and weekly study plans, preparation efforts quickly become sporadic and inefficient, leaving critical gaps  until the eleventh hour. Create and follow a study calendar.


Presuming you have mastered content without validating against practice test performance metrics sets you up for trouble when confronting tougher exam demands. Check retained knowledge frequently.


Cramming late nights pre-exam combined with long study abstinence gaps promotes massive forgetting versus steady daily review leading up to test dates for stabilisation. Create sustainable routines.

Learning pitfalls grind progress toward exam readiness to a halt. Be proactive in sidestepping these mistakes using proven exam prep tips and self-monitoring approaches that target student success.

How to Stay Motivated to Study

Staying motivated to stick with consistent exam preparation when feeling overwhelmed or distracted by social pressures helps separate high performers from underachievers. But how? Consider these essential tips for exam preparation:

  • Connect with Purpose: Remind yourself, ‘Why’ are you investing all this effort to fulfill dreams, make your family proud, open career prospects, or do something meaningful? Connecting goals to a greater purpose energises perseverance.
  • Reward Milestones: Celebrate progress through study plan checkpoints by enjoying small treats, activities, pampering, or purchases that usher gratification without sabotaging your exam needs. Balance recharges motivation.
  • Schedule Consistency: Establish set times framing daily and weekly study routines to automate habits so you bypass internal friction negotiating prep time. Rote consistency minimises decision fatigue.
  • Accountability Partners: Share your study schedule with friends or parents who can periodically check your progress, offer encouragement, and expect follow-through. External accountability helps overrule natural impulse avoidance.
  • Simulate Test Conditions: Use noise-canceling headphones, timer apps simulating timed test constraints, or practice problems under simulated exam conditions. Experiencing the testing scenario boosts familiarity and confidence.
  • Visualise Success: Envision yourself flexing knowledge fluently throughout exam questions so affirmative thoughts manifest through positive actions towards your dreams. Rehearse confidence!


Getting ready for exams can cause stress for many students who are up against strict tests that impact their future opportunities. However, using proven techniques to maximise study time, boost motivation, organise materials effectively, and test recall can alleviate stress. This approach enhances confidence in mastering the material. Follow these essential exam preparation tips to gain a firm grasp of the subject, allowing you to confidently face exams and perform at your best on the exam day!

At SRS, we understand that exam periods can be an anxious and challenging time for many students. The pressure to perform well and long study hours often lead to high stress during this season. That’s why we prioritise providing our students with extra support and care leading up to and during exams to ease some of that load and pressure.

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