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Curious about how to study for your final exams? Not a lot of us are lucky enough to take the final exams we are strongest at. I dominate at essay questions, but I am always bombarded with assessment exams (this is, perhaps, the woe of earning a business degree as opposed to a liberal arts degree).

You don’t have to be a strong writer to ace your essay questions, and you definitely do not have to be great at taking tests to do well on your other tests. For the most part, the prep work prior to the exam is going to be the same. There is definitely a way to make this upcoming test less stressful and more successful! So here are some tips on how to study and ace your next exam.

On Studying Before Your Final Exam

Make a study schedule.

Have a week calendar counting down to the exam ahead. You are going to have a lot of other assignments and tasks to take care of leading up to the exam, so why not set aside study time for the big test?

Study Out Loud

Whether you are a visual, auditory, or tactile learner, reading your notes out loud is effective. Why? Because you’re using all three tactics to study. You’re reading your notes, hearing yourself say the words, and you’re actively experiencing your study efforts when you’re reading aloud. It’s definitely a great way to retain your information.

Find your ideal study spot.

Let’s face it: studying in your room is not conducive to exam success. So here are five places you can find solace instead, depending on your tolerance of noise.

  1. Library
  2. Coffee shops
  3. Park
  4. Your building’s common  rooms
  5. Classrooms on campus (if they’re open)


You will not need every drop of information covered in class for your exam. You will not succeed, even if you try. So don’t. Go through everything you’ve learned in class, and cross off the things you definitely do not need to know. Make sure it isn’t in your way, and you won’t waste precious time studying for it.

Remember your exam materials!

If you’re the unlucky one who has to provide your own blue book or scantron, remember to buy them ahead of time. Don’t forget your pens, pencils, calculators, etc. It sucks if you are ready to ace the exam but forgot your writing utensil/ calculator (not all professors are equipped with extras).

Sleep, sleep, sleep!

Make sure you get at least 6 hours of sleep before your exam, even at the expense of 2 more hours of studying. Sleeping is essential for success!

On Acing Your Final Exam

This is where the differences in exams come in. You need different strategies for different tests!

The Assessment Exam

a.k.a. the multiple choice/fill-in-the-blank/short answer/case study exams. There are 3 things you can do to succeed in your exam:

  1. Answer all the questions the first time! Blanks are not a smart strategy, so answer the question, even if you are clueless to the answer. You can mark the question to check after you finish, but answer everything! Why? First, you can run out of time, so at least you have the chance of guessing right. Second, after all that studying, your gut could be right! You never know if you leave it blank!
  2. Take the exam again! Redo it, don’t just check your answers. You could lose silly points by reading the question wrong the first time or even circling the wrong letter (that’s happened to me before).
  3. Don’t over-think. If you were confident with your first answer, it is likely your second guess is a freak-out moment. Don’t trust it. Use that time to decipher those awkwardly-worded test questions instead.

The Essay Exam

a.k.a. those blue books from hell. You lose points with 2 mistakes: first, failing to answer everything on the prompt. Second, forgetting to include relevant arguments made in class/recitation. That’s all. Here are 3 strategies you need to ace your essay exam:

  1. Outline your answer. Before you even write your answer to the essay question, sketch out an outline of every argument you want to make on the back of your blue book. Just make it a list of bullet points, with key words to remind you of big points you want to hit.
  2. Make sure your outline answers the prompt in full. It’s easy to miss a point when you’re rushing, even with an outline.
  3. Follow the Three Minute Rule. It’s just like the rule implies: after you sketch out your outline, spend a full 3 minutes to reflect on your answer. No more, no less. Think about the following: Did you miss anything? Did your professor mention a tricky point in class that would be relevant to this answer? Could you effectively  reapply an argument you already made? What argument doesn’t fit the bill?

Follow these tips, and rest assured that you will be on top of your game during that exam.

Need any more tips on what to do when getting your exam? Check this video below.

What to Do When Getting your Final Exam

What other tips do you have on how to study for your final exams? Let us know in the comments below.


Photo courtesy of Brendan DeBrincat via Flickr (licensed under CC BY 2.0).