Key learnings from exams

With mid year exams fast approaching we thought it would be useful to share some key learnings from exams for students to take note of.  These learnings are from our regular 1:1 sessions with students from the exams at the end of last year.Organising Students - Image in circle with the words Learning to study smarter not harder

Some of these learnings will help students to be aware of and put into practice now for their upcoming exams.  Others are strategies that students should consider putting into practice regularly to assist with their learning & consolidating knowledge.  The ultimate goal being to studying smarter not harder and be better prepared for exams at anytime.

Here are 12 key learnings based directly from discussions with students:

  1. First and foremost, knowing when exams are – the exact dates and being able to see these ahead of time so they can put together a plan of attack in the lead up.  Whilst exact timetables often don’t come out till later students can Organising Students - Image of Multiple choice exam paperstill be preparing ahead of time.
  2. Knowing the format of exams – too often when we have discussions with students they have no idea of the length of time of the exams, the number of marks or how they will be examined ie short answer, essay, multiple choice etc.  Knowing the answer to all of these questions early can assist with the approach students take with their preparation & revision and to establish an idea of how long to spend on questions based on time and marks.
  3. Starting exam preparation and revision early and not waiting till the teacher starts revision in class – too often students don’t put in the time prior which is when the bulk of it can be done, then fine tune and consolidate their understanding & knowledge with any classroom revision.  It is also an opportunity to spend time noting down key areas that they might be lacking in understanding so they can be followed up with the teacher during revision sessions in the lead up to exams.
  4. Preparing cheat sheets or note summaries of key information for topics – ideally this is done much prior and part of revision for earlier tests or assessments so that students already have this to use in their exam preparation.  However if it hasn’t been done previously, then this should be done in the lead up to exams.  It is an opportunity to go through and pull out what the key information is that one needs to know and put it their own words – by doing so students are actually being active with the content which will assist their memory and recall of the information when needed.  Whether they can actually take this information in to an exam or not, it is a useful strategy to assist with revision anyway.
  5. Don’t rely on cheat sheets or summary books – these should be used more as a back up for students when they might forget aOrganising Students - image of a maths summary book page with information on it formula or a key bit of information rather than relying on them for everything.  Ideally they should know most of the content as it can waste time searching.
  6. Spend an equal amount of time on subjects and topics – too often students make assumptions on what they are better at and what they are not.  Unfortunately we have seen students make incorrect assumptions and then not do as well on areas they expected to.  Students should put in the time and effort to revise regardless of how well they feel they know a subject or topic.
  7. Don’t make assumptions about what will or won’t be on the exam – time and time again students will tell me that the teacher didn’t highlight this or that in the revision or it wasn’t on the check list provided.  If a student has learnt something in a topic or subject then they need to assume it can be covered.  The only time a student can exclude something from their revision is if it is explicitly stated that it won’t be examined.
  8. Create study tools as they go – usually these are helpful for tests or assessments during the year and then can be reused for exams.  This can include key terms, glossaries, note summaries, cue cards and the list goes ……
  9. Organising Students - Image of a student working with a teacherSeeking help from teachers more regularly – often students realise after exams that it would have been helpful to have spent more time either asking questions in class or making a time to meet with the teacher to go over areas they didn’t understand.  Teachers are usually always happy to assist and even submitting practice pieces or questions for them to review and provide feedback is something we often encourage.
  10. Regularly review notes rather than just before a test or exam – taking the small amount of time to do this on a regular basis helps to consolidate the content and knowledge for students.  It is like anything where we only look at something once we are not likely to remember but the more we do then it tends to stick better.  To learn more about this concept which refers to the forgetting curve click here.
  11. Always focus and pay attention in class – this is another key one that is important for students.  Students should be attending all classes and focusing on learning from the teacher in each class as this will help them to retain more of the content as well as understand more.
  12. Test themselves – the only way to really know what a student knows is to test themselves.  The sooner this can be done in the lead up to an exam the better as it then allows them time to focus on what they don’t know.  Once they know this then they need to spend more time focusing on what they don’t know.  Too often students spend time focusing on what they do know and run out of time for what they don’t know.

We encourage all students to take note of these key learnings from exams and to also reflect on their own experiences each and every time they sit exams.  Every exam experience is an opportunity to reflect & learn and to keep improving their study habits, preparation and strategies/techniques for use in exams.

For more ideas on exam preparation click here –

If you are a student of any age and would like some further support with organisation, time management or study skills please get in touch.