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Academic Skills Essentials: Exam preparation

Exam preparation

Exam preparation is rarely ‘fun’; however, it doesn’t have to be stressful, boring and unpleasant. There are strategies you can undertake to improve your chances of doing well in exams.


Know what your exams will test

Starting week 1, learn as much as possible about your exams. To do this, attend/read all the lectures and tutorials and any extra revision sessions that may be organised either on campus or online. Try and access past exam papers or exam questions. Often, lecturers will provide hints about the exams and sample exam questions throughout the semester, so take note of these. Try to identify the extent to which your upcoming exams will be similar to these.

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  • What % of total marks is the exam worth?
  • When and where will the exam be held?
  • How much time is available to complete the exam?
  • How will the exam be structured? What type of questions will be included: multiple choice, short answer, long answer, case study, etc.
  • How will marks be allocated to each question?
  • How much time needs to be spent on each question?
  • What are the exam conditions? Ensure you read ECU’s Examination Conditions: Information for students

  • Establish specific revision goals
  • Set up a realistic weekly planner leading up to the exams. You can download a weekly planner from the pintables section below.
  • Get organised
  • Set up a space that is conducive to study: quiet, comfortable, well-lit and free of distractions
  • Sort and file lecture and tutorial notes, handouts and readings for each topic
  • Rewrite notes, reducing them to headings, key points, names, dates, definitions, etc.

  • Writing short summaries of theories and concepts
  • Drawing diagrams/flowcharts of systems or processes
  • Making numbered lists of points to recall
  • Making flashcards/tables with key concepts and explanations
  • Creating spider diagrams or mind maps
  • Working through revision questions and past exams
  • Studying with someone else (study buddy) and testing one another

  • Multiple choice questions
  • Short answer questions
  • Problem-solving questions
  • Essay questions

  • The night before the exam, get everything ready, do not cram or panic, and try and get a good night’s sleep
  • On the day, dress comfortably and have an energy based breakfast – avoid coffee and chocolate!
  • Ban negative self-talk and don’t engage in nervous discussions outside the exam room
  • In the exam, stay calm, read the questions carefully and stick to the timing you have set for yourself
  • If you get stuck, leave the question and go back to it later
  • Write legibly, number your answers and leave time for proof-reading.

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Exam preparation checklist

Look at this exam preparation checklist. Indicate with a yes or no whether you do this well or you need to improve.

  Yes or No
Know what is going to be tested  
Practise questions from past exam papers  
Do regular review of lectures and tutorials  
Create a revision timetable  
Organise notes into summaries or diagrams  
Study actively  
Manage your wellbeing