7 survival strategies for last minute exam prep

7 ways to prepare for an exam when you are running out of time

Sometimes life gets away from us and we find ourselves on the eve of an exam feeling under-prepared.

But all might not be lost. Instead of throwing in the towel, take a deep breath and get your head in the game because it's time to rise to the challenge. Here’s how:

1. You don’t know what you don’t know:

Planning and preparation is important. Use highlighters to review your course materials and separate the content you know well, know a bit or do not know at all. Prepare a revision plan that allocates enough time to each section, focusing primarily on the things you don’t know.

2. Keep distractions at bay:

Find the right study environment which will have minimal disruptions. Where you study is important to help put you in the right state of mind and keep you calm. A room with a door you can close and a good desk is ideal.

3. Ask for help:

Ask around to see which content you should concentrate on when you have a very limited time frame to revise. Your goal is to come to a consensus on the core areas to find out what is most important to study before the exam. Reach out to your study group or other students you know from the course and ask if you can spend some time reviewing the content together.

4. Be clear about your aims:

Know what you need to do. If it is an open book exam, you may benefit from preparing a detailed index to make it easier to find material. For multiple choice formats, create a ‘cheat sheet’ of essential facts that you can memorize to help weed out inaccurate or misleading choices. If essay writing is a key component, practice writing out essay plans on various topics that may form part of the exam.

5. Use your time well:

Simply reading and copying notes is not the best way for absorbing information. Try being an active learner. If you have key information to memorize use 'mnemonics' or make flash cards to test your recall. Repetition, creating summaries, studying with others, timed sessions with rewards – there are many options, just stay active and mix it up.

6. Revise and test:

Test your recall to make sure you have absorbed the information. Try accessing previous exams or practice questions that will help you understand the format of the test. It may even give you a hint on the type of questions to expect in the exam.

7. Stay positive:

Fear and regret will only slow you down so stay positive, calm, eat well, drink plenty of water and try to get a decent night’s sleep. Make sure you also note the time, location and your travel plans for the exam as to not rush on the day.

Tips to help study at the last minute:

  • Focus on the areas which you are not completely across
  • Ask other students for advice
  • Find out the format of the exam
  • Revise and test yourself regularly


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