Suggestions to Try Before or During Your Next Exam

Figuring out how to best be prepared for an exam can take some effort. The most important step is to take time to prepare and study ahead of time to avoid “cramming” last minute. Below are some helpful steps to consider adding into your routine.

  • Always keep track on your calendar when you have a major test or quiz coming up. Plan at least a week in advance to start scheduling in time to study and practice the material you know will be covered. Use study guides if provided by your instructor and consider doing any practice problems available as well.
    • Work on studying the newest or most challenging material first, then take a short break and switch to what you are most familiar with. At the end of each study session, make a note of where you may still need help understanding- plan to reach out for help clarifying that information and/or cover that information first during your next study session.
    • Prior to going into an exam, try to find out what types of questions will be on the test. If you have taken an exam or quiz with the instructor, review the questions that you missed and get feedback on how to improve any fill-in-the-blank or essay-type responses for future exams. Practice answering those types of questions as you study.
  • Make sure you are well rested and have had a good meal prior to your exam.
  • When starting your test, take a minute to read directions. Then, carefully then plan and  prioritize your time. For example, if you know you have an hour and there are 50 questions, you will be able to spend just over a minute on each question. If you have an essay to complete, budget your time so you don’t spend all of the hour on the essay and then run out of time on the multiple choice.
  • If you are working on the test and get stuck on a question, flag it to come back to. Working on a different set of questions will keep your momentum going and may help you figure out the answer to the more challenging question.
    • Unless you are 100% certain, it is recommended not to change any answers if you second guess yourself. Unless you can prove your first answer is wrong trust your initial response!
    • As long as you won’t be penalized, try not to leave any questions blank. Even if you have to guess, that gives you a chance to get possible points that you otherwise miss out on.
  • For some people, memories can be triggered by a specific smell or flavor. Try seeing if chewing a certain gum or hard candy while you study and then again while you are taking the test can improve your recall of information by activating different neural pathways in your brain.
  • If you aren’t able to use notes during an exam, see if you are able to bring a blank sheet of paper. At the start of the exam, write down any formulas, dates, key words, or quick definitions that you’ve memorized. As you’re going through the test, it may help to jog your memory with a question to see those notes.
  • If you are taking your exam at a testing center, be sure to schedule those times in advance. When possible, plan to arrive early and get comfortable in your new space to help alleviate any pre-testing anxiety.
    • If you are an online student and have a proctored test, you have options to schedule your exams either at one of Kirkwood’s test centers, a regional center, or at a non-Kirkwood location.
– Try out this resource to avoid common exam mistakes.
– Here is another great external resource on test anxiety.
– Find yourself needing more help with your anxiety or other mental health that impacts your test performance? Consider checking out our Counseling Services.
– We also have testing Accommodations for students available.



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Kirkwood Community College Academic Coaching Resources Copyright © by Myranda Hadley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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