How to Study for An Exam

Learning how to study effectively is key to experiencing success on your academic journey. Learning how to effectively read and process information, how to write clear and concise papers, and memorize materials for exams can be a challenge. This article is a helpful starting point, which will help you hone in on your skills as a budding scholar.

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Revision Plan

A revision plan is essential and needs to be drawn up well in advance. How much time will you need to devote to various subject areas for the exams you are taking? Remember that you need to plan this around your other daily activities for example work, sports training, music practice, dental and other appointments.

It is important to break your revision plan into smaller daily chunks and set yourself realistic targets for each session. As you successfully cover the topic(s) set, you naturally feel good about it.

It will be important to initiate and maintain a degree of self-discipline when preparing and revising for exams:

  • Identify a key revision task for a topic area you enjoy (focus on these first and move to deal with your weaker subjects later)
  • Decide on a time of day or night when you are regularly free and able to concentrate fully on the task in hand. Remove all possible distractions, for example, turn off your mobile telephone
  • To begin with at least, the task should not be given more than about 30 minutes, or slightly longer (40-45 minutes) but divided by a short break
  • Wait for the exact scheduled time and then begin the task. Focus on the task uninterrupted for the full duration of the period allocated
  • In starting to work at the same time for each session, the initial goal is to help you develop a routine
  • Maintaining this in the time leading up to your exams is good preparation. Track your progress. Gradually you can adapt the time given to each subject depending on how effective you are in achieving your goals
  • Practise writing timed assignments, aim to complete a specific task in a given time. Practise answering past exam papers or questions in the time allowed
  • Gradually begin to allocate more time to your weaker subjects – the ones you need to work on most. Again, ensure you tackle them in small chunks, making them feel more manageable.  Inevitably, you will not be able to keep a strict timetable going at the exact time every day, so a degree of flexibility is required including free days which can, as the exam approaches, be used for additional work in weaker areas. However, if you identify a likely time for most days when you can work uninterrupted, it will be easier to establish and maintain a revision routine.


Revising is where your active and critical study skills are needed. When beginning to work:

  • Preview the text you are about to read. Skim the headings, sub-headings, introduction and conclusion. Does it look likely to serve your needs or is there a more appropriate chapter or book to focus on?
  • Highlight key information while you read; this can be done by marking or underlining important areas of the text. Visual learners often devise a colour code using marker pens. Colour coding could include using different colours for factual information, the author’s opinions or claims, plausible and dubious reasoning, references, etc.
  • Summarise the key points separately, highlighting patterns and linking main and supporting ideas drawn from different sources.
  • Test yourself or have a friend test you on those key points listed in your as this is an excellent opportunity to identify and work on weaknesses at the same time.

The more organised and timely your revision schedule is, the more confident you are going to feel when the time comes to take the exam(s). It will also help in dealing with exam nerves and reduce the likelihood of a panic situation.

« Back to Student SuccessLast updated November 21, 2019