What Is The Best Way To Study For An Exam?

Taking exams is stressful, but you can make it easier by improving the way you study. Studying for your exams effectively and efficiently will keep you from feeling unprepared, and it will set you up for success.

Writing final exams or studying for big semester-end papers can be the most challenging aspects of a student’s life experience in college. There is a lot to learn, keep the books organized, memorize some already studied textbooks and remember to recall read study materials for the exams. Following the effective study tips listed in this article can help reduce stress and increase productivity in your grade point average.

Not every studying technique works for every student, learn to experiment with a few of these important study methods to find out which ones work best for you.

Why Should I Study For An Exam

Learners are leaders and great learners study hard. As a student, one of the marquee activities that go on to define your capabilities is your ability to study hard and pass an exam.

As a student, it’s imperative to develop effective time management and study techniques that help you retain the most information. 

Studying well for an exam can make your GPA and is a skill that will come in handy long into your educational future. Let’s take a closer look at how many hours should you study for an exam. A general rule is to spend two hours on homework or studying for every hour that your class meets. For example, if your economics class meets for an hour, three times a week, you might expect to spend six hours a week on homework or studying for your upcoming econ exams. However, honing in your studying routine can help to streamline your process and ensure the best outcomes on your next test. Below is a brief analogy of hen to start studying.

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When To Start Studying?

Making out time to study can be a big task for students due to lots of activities around them. Rather than procrastinating until the day or night before the exam, one of the best ways to be prepared for a test/exam is to stay on top of your work throughout the class from the get-go. Also, by taking proper notes, staying engaged in the information, and studying a little every week to review what you have learned, you will find test-taking to be a bit easier and less stressful.

So, if you wish to stay on top of your game as a student, the best time to start studying is in the four walls of a classroom by paying attention in class, taking proper notes, and asking the right questions.

You may want to see this: Unavoidable Time Management Tips For College Students In 2022

How To Start Studying For An Exam

Once you are ready to get to studying, getting organized will play a large role in reducing your stress levels and preparing you to absorb the information. Here are a few things to keep in mind: study space, study materials, review of previous tests, and prioritizing.

Creating the best environment for learning can be relaxing during studying time. If you are attending a traditional on-campus university, it is likely that there are 24-hour study rooms or libraries that are available. Additionally, some people like studying with some background noise the coffee shop is okay. When you are online, you can create a study space that suits your needs. 

Once the problem of sorting the right environment is solved, the next thing is to cultivate a study practice. You can jump into the different ways of learning that help you absorb the most information. There are basic study techniques to make it more fun and interesting experience. 

You can adopt the following ideas:

  • Take Practice Tests.
  • Watch a documentary on the topic you are studying.
  • Make Flashcards
  • Use Color Coding
  • Join a Study Group
  • Create your own study guide
  • Utilize Memorization Techniques

Top 9 Study Methods To Prepare For Your Exam

Below are 9 study methods that can help prepare you for a successful exam:

1. The SQ3R Method

The SQ3R method is a reading comprehension technique that helps students identify important facts and retain information within their textbook. SQ3R (or SQRRR) is an acronym that stands for the following five steps of the reading comprehension process:

  • Survey: Instead of reading the entire book, start by skimming the first chapter and taking notes on any headings, subheadings, images, or other standout features like charts.
  • Question: Formulate questions around the content of the chapter, such as, what is this chapter about? What do I already know about this subject?
  • Read: Begin reading the full chapter and look for answers to the questions you formulated.
  • Recite: After reading a section, summarize in your own words what you just read. Try recalling and identifying major points and answering any questions from the second step.
  • Review: Once you have finished the chapter, it’s important to review the material to fully understand it. Quiz yourself on the questions you created and re-read any portions you need to.

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2. Retrieval Practice

Retrieval practice is based on the concept of remembering at a later time. Recalling an answer to a question improves learning more than looking for the answer in your textbook. And, remembering and writing down the answer to a flashcard is a lot more effective than thinking you know the answer and flipping the card over early.

If you practice retrieval, you are more likely to remember the information later on. Below are some ways you can implement the retrieval process into your study routine:

  • Utilize practice tests: Use practice tests or questions to quiz yourself, without looking at your book or notes.
  • Make your own questions: Be your own teacher and create questions you think would be on a test. If you’re in a study group, encourage others to do the same, and trade questions.
  • Use flashcards: Create flashcards, but make sure to practice your retrieval technique. Instead of flipping a card over prematurely, write the answer down and then check.

3. Spaced Practice

Spaced practice (also known as “distributed practice”) encourages students to study over a longer period of time instead of cramming the night before. When our brains almost forget something, they work harder to recall that information. Spacing out your studying allows your mind to make connections between ideas and build upon the knowledge that can be easily recalled later.

To try this technique, review your material in spaced intervals similar to the schedule below:

  • Day 1: Learn the material in class.
  • Day 2: Revisit and review.
  • Day 3: Revisit and review.
  • After one week: Revisit and review.
  • After two weeks: Revisit and review.

It’s important to start planning early. At the beginning of each semester, schedule some time each day just for studying and reviewing the material. Even if your exams are months away, this will help you hold yourself accountable.

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4. The PQ4R Method

This method takes an active approach to learning that improves memorization and understanding of the topic. Similar to the SQ3R method above, PQ4R is an acronym that stands for the six steps in the process:

  • Preview: Preview the information before you start reading to get an idea of what the subject matter will be. Skim the material and read only the headers, subheadings, and highlighted text.
  • Question: Ask yourself questions related to the topic, such as, what do I expect to learn? What do I already know about this topic?
  • Read: Read the information one section at a time and try to identify answers to your questions.
  • Reflect: Did you answer all of your questions? If not, go back and see if you can find the answer.
  • Recite: In your own words, either speak or write down a summary of the information you just read.
  • Review: Look over the material one more time and answer any questions that have not yet been answered.

5. The Feynman Technique

The Feynman Technique is an efficient method of learning a concept quickly by explaining it in plain and simple terms. It’s based on the idea, “If you want to understand something well, try to explain it simply.” What that means is, by attempting to explain a concept in our own words, we are likely to understand it a lot faster.

How it works:

  • Write the subject/concept you are studying at the top of a sheet of paper.
  • Then, explain it in your own words as if you were teaching someone else.
  • Review what you wrote and identify any areas where you were wrong. Once you have identified them, go back to your notes or reading material and figure out the correct answer.
  • Lastly, if there are any areas in your writing where you used technical terms or complex language, go back and rewrite these sections in simpler terms for someone who doesn’t have the educational background you have.

6. Leitner System

The Leitner System is a learning technique based on flashcards. Ideally, you keep your cards in several different boxes to track when you need to study each set. Every card starts in Box 1. If you get a card right, you move it to the next box. If you get a card wrong, you either move it down a box or keep it in Box 1 (if it’s already there).

Each box determines how much you will study each set of cards, similar to the following schedule:

  • Every day — Box 1
  • Every two days — Box 2
  • Every four days — Box 3
  • Every nine days — Box 4
  • Every 14 days — Box 5

7. Mind Mapping

If you’re a visual learner, try mind mapping, a technique that allows you to visually organize information in a diagram. First, you write a word in the center of a blank page. From there, you write major ideas and keywords and connect them directly to the central concept. Other related ideas will continue to branch out.

The structure of a mind map is related to the way our brains store and retrieve information. Mind mapping your notes instead of just writing them down can improve your reading comprehension. It also enables you to see the big picture by communicating the hierarchy and relationships between concepts and ideas.

So, how do you do it?

  • Grab a blank sheet of paper (or use a tool online) and write your study topic in the center, such as “child development.”
  • Connect one of your main ideas (i.e., a chapter of your book or notes) to the main topic, such as “developmental stages.”
  • Connect sub-branches of supporting ideas to your main branch. This is the association of ideas. For example, “Sensorimotor,” “Preoperational,” “Concrete operational,” and “Formal operational.”

TIP: Use different colors for each branch and draw pictures if it helps.

8. Exercise Before Studying

Not only does exercise fight fatigue, it can also increase energy levels. If you’re struggling to find the motivation to study, consider adding an exercise routine to your day. It doesn’t have to be a full hour at the gym. It can be a 20-minute workout at home or a brisk walk around your neighborhood. Anything to get your heart rate pumping. Exercising before you study:

  • Kick starts brain function and can help improve memory and cognitive performance.
  • Releases endorphins, which can improve your mood and reduce stress levels.

9. Study Before Bed

Sleep is crucial for brain function, memory formation, and learning. Studying before you sleep, whether it is reviewing flashcards or notes, can help improve recall. According to Scott Cairney, a researcher from the University of York in the United Kingdom, “When you are awake you learn new things, but when you are asleep you refine them, making it easier to retrieve them and apply them correctly when you need them most. This is important for how we learn but also for how we might help retain healthy brain functions.”

When you’re asleep, the brain organizes your memories. Instead of pulling an all-nighter, study a few hours before bed and then review the information in the morning.

No one wants to spend more time studying than they need to. Learning effective study techniques can ensure you are fully prepared for your exams and will help curve any looming test anxiety. Hopefully, with the techniques above, you can avoid cramming the night before and make your study time more effective. For more tips, download the infographic below.

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FAQs On Best Way to Study for an Exam

How do I get rid of distractions while studying?

Switch off your phone. Turn off the television. Gather all your study materials. Go to a quiet, bright space where no one will disturb you. Make sure your space is free of as many distractions as possible. Take a snack and some water and go to the bathroom before you study, so you won’t have to get up and break your concentration.

For how long should I sleep the night before exams?

Getting enough sleep is really important if you want to do well on your exams. Don’t make the mistake of staying up all night studying, only to end up too tired to remember anything on exam day! Everyone’s sleep needs are different, but try to get at least 8 hours each night, and never less than 7 hours, especially before exams.

How do I get rid of exam fear?

Prepare as well as you can for your exam. Know where and when your exam will be held. Make sure you know what kinds of questions will be on it. Try not to think about it too much and remind yourself that you are well prepared for it whenever the anxiety strikes.

How do you study for a chapter test?

Read the chapter through a few times. Frame questions from the chapter and do not make them easy. Review your notes on the chapter and read the chapter again, then you should be good to go!

How do I get set and ready for study?

Change into some comfortable clothes and go to a place where no one will disturb you. Only take some water, snacks, and your study materials with you. Turn off your phone and put it away so that you won’t be tempted to use it.

Is studying at the very last minute (“cramming”) a good strategy for exams?

No, you should do this only as a last resort. Cramming usually doesn’t lead to good grades because it’s hard to memorize lots of information quickly. Even if you do earn a good grade, you’ll forget the content after the test, so it won’t help you in the future (which is the whole point of learning in school). Usually the more time you spend learning something, the longer and more easily you remember it.


Good study skills can increase your confidence, competence, and self-esteem. They can also reduce anxiety about tests and deadlines. By developing effective study skills, you may be able to cut down on the number of hours spent studying, leaving more time for other things in your life.

With the above steps, outlined students can effectively study and build the skill of studying which may feel worthwhile.


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