Strategies for Exams

 When you are prepared for a test, you can turn it into an opportunity to strut your stuff! Start preparing for exams a little bit at a time and using these strategies to reduce test anxiety and improve performance.


  • Review your course outlines, learning objectives and past tests to get a better sense of what and how you should study for each course.
    • Will there be an emphasis on material not yet tested, on class discussions or supplemental readings?
    • If you’re unsure about the format of the exam, check the syllabus and then ask the professor.
  • Attend a Learning Skills workshop to learn about studying differently for different types of tests.
  • Use your past test to prepare for your next midterm
  • Don’t cram. The same amount of time divided up, and spaced out over as much time as you have, will produce better results. Check out this Spaced Practice video
  • University is more like a marathon than a sprint. Your exam study time should be sustainable, and taking breaks allows for memory consolidation.
    • Aim for a 50 minute study session followed by a 10 minute break or, if you’re still being productive, a 2 hour study session then a 1 hour break.
    • Throughout the term, aim to work on your most difficult course during your most productive time.
    • For final exams, use your freer schedule without classes to try to study around the same time as your exam (morning, afternoon or evening).
  • Spend your study time effectively. Research shows that using self-testing and elaboration are far more helpful than re-reading the text or lecture notes.
    • Use mock exams – from the professor or IA, your SQR5 study questions, the textbook or lab manual, or companion websites
    • Keep as much as possible common between study and recall – similar space, setting, sound levels, and objects. If you won’t have a phone on your table or music playing during the test, try not to study with them.
  • Websites for more information on test-taking strategies