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Preparing properly for exams am 24. April 2021
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Themen: digital exams , learning strategies , Motivation , self-management and time management

Preparing properly for exams

Exam season is approaching, learning materials are extensive and given the lack of time, you might feel tense or even experience examination anxiety. Proper preparation for exams can support you in successfully managing your exams. This blog contribution by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) offers general tips for preparing for an exam and studying, as well as information about different learning strategies and reading techniques.

Tips for preparing for an exam

Before you start studying

Before you start studying

  • Organising learning materials and resources: Gather all necessary learning materials (notes, texts, slides, lecture notes) – it is important to have a good overview of the amount of material.
  • Obtaining information about the exam and the examiner: Talk to your fellow students or check on u:find to try to gain knowledge about the procedure of the exam and what type of questions will be asked. Especially for oral or practical exams, find out what is of importance to the examiners. However, keep in mind that these are highly individual assessments and take them with a grain of salt.
  • Preparing your workspace: Arrange your workspace at home or at the library so that you can study as undisturbed as possible. To focus properly on your materials, put away everything you do not need for studying and keep the materials you do need within reach. You can also hang a poster on the wall that contains a summary of the material and add colourful post-it notes. A visible learning schedule helps to keep an overview and supports your self-management.
  • Creating a learning schedule: It can be helpful to plan backwards, from the exam date to the day on which you start to study for it. Allow time for revisions as well as buffer time for unexpected events. Of course, creating a schedule takes some effort, but without one, you will have to consider and plan your studying anew on a daily basis. A proper schedule and realistic time management provide a good overview and a clear structure to every day of studying.
  • Managing the learning material: Especially with large amounts of material, breaking it down into smaller chunks is helpful for covering all of it. To keep an overview of the broader context of the individual chunks, divide up the material so that you can learn it in a relatively short period (at most a few days).

While you are studying

While you are studying

  • Rituals can support a good learning atmosphere: It is a challenge to get into the right mindset for studying regularly and reliably. Rituals such as a specific daily routine, preparing a certain cup of tea or coffee or listening to a certain type of music can support this process.
  • Getting and keeping motivated: Motivation is not a personality trait but the answer to the questions of ‘why’ and ‘what for’ regarding an action. Therefore, always keep your goal in mind. Motivation is not only based on the personal value of your goal, but also on your subjective expectation about achieving this goal. Take a good look at what is not working well for you and ask for help if necessary. Question your overly critical self-image (if applicable) and reflect on what you need exactly to believe in your own success.
  • Do not forget to reward yourself: Reward yourself for continuing with studying, it is not a given. Rewards of various kinds have been shown to enhance motivation.
  • Revisions consolidate knowledge: There is the tendency to forget large parts of the material shortly after you have studied it. However, you want new knowledge to be stored in your long-term memory so that you can reproduce it in the long run. Revisions are essential for this purpose. Ideally, you revise the material several times at increasing intervals. Make sure you schedule enough time for this.
  • Checking your progress: Evaluate regularly and seriously how far you have come with the material using your learning schedule. Do you have to spend more time on studying (to a reasonable extent), does it make sense to postpone the exam to the next date or are you well on schedule?
  • Preparing for an exam mentally: Preparing mentally helps you to recall what you have learned and to do well in a given moment. Try to push negative thoughts aside, be aware of your skills and imagine a successful exam.
  • Studying together increases your chances of success: Studying together increases motivation and offers support even in times of crisis. This can range from sitting and studying together to developing exam questions and simulating an exam situation – the possibilities are endless. Exchanging ideas allows you to see different perspectives on the material and by working together, you will have an easier time studying complex material.

When you are done studying

When you are done studying

  • Evaluate your learning process: After an exam is before an exam. If something has worked well for one exam, it will also work well for another one. You can continue to refine your technique and learning strategies:  Reflect on the aspects you were not fully happy with (time management, presentation, your reactions to questions, stress during the exam, etc.) and what concrete steps you could take to change them. Try implementing these steps the next time – the next exam season is sure to come.
  • Reward yourself for your work: Plan what you want to do after you are done and do not forget to reward yourself and to mentally pat yourself on the back. 😊

Want to read more? 😊 Check out our blog posts with the following topics:

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