13 Exam Study Tips Every Student Should Know

Table with books and a computer

“Study Area” by yum9me is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Preparing for final exams is never easy. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to boost your performance and improve your retention of facts during cram time.

Check out our top 13 exam study tips that every student should know! These tips will help you ace your tests.

1. Map out your notes in a new way

Mind Map

“Subway Style Mind Map” by Sharon Brogan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Instead of mindlessly skimming pages and pages of written notes, consider making mind maps, Venn diagrams, and other visual presentations that incorporate the information found in your notes. By making connections between various topics and comparing different pieces of information, you’ll be able to understand your course information on a deeper level. Visually re-framing notes is particularly useful for students taking written exams.

2. Keep the beverages flowing

Beer glasses

“Beer sampler” by Quinn Dombrowski is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Okay, so maybe beer isn’t the best choice for staying hydrated, focused, and awake while you’re studying. Maybe save the beer to celebrate when the exams are over.

Staying hydrated and comfortable will make it far easier to endure hours of studying.

Drinking water is great for the body and mind. Be sure to drink water along with other beverage(s) of choice while prepping for your finals. Whether you’re a fan of hot tea, ice-cold Coca Cola or Starbucks lattes, keep a drink by your side while you’re studying.

3. Skim Quizlet for flashcards


“Japanese Flashcards” by Konrad Lawson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

While flashcards are a great tool, they can be a pain (and time consuming) to make. Avoid the carpal tunnel and search through the resources on Quizlet to find flashcards others have made for your exam subject. If you’d prefer more class-specific flashcards, consider recruiting a few classmates to join you in making a deck of cards on Quizlet. You’ll be glad that you did!

4. Get vocal while studying

Singing cat

“singing” by Diego Sevilla Ruiz is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Studies have shown that students retain material better when they vocalize the content in their notes. If you have a study buddy, consider asking each other questions and explaining your answers aloud to one another. Though you might feel silly about it, reading your study guides out loud can improve your comprehension and retention of exam material.

5. Block out distractions with StayFocusd

Facebook attacks

“facebook” by Dimitris Kalogeropoylos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A majority of students find themselves procrastinating online when they should be studying for their exams. We’ve all been there!

If you struggle with motivation and self-control during an exam season, consider installing StayFocusd on Google Chrome. This browser extension can block websites with a “nuclear” blocking option or can be used to selectively block and allow different websites. By staying off of social networks and other distracting websites, the quantity and quality of your study time will certainly improve.

6. Practice on past exams


“Exam” by Alberto G is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Many teachers and professors offer their students old exam copies that they can use for practice. If you haven’t received old practice exams, consider asking your teacher for copies. Filling out practice tests will help you get used to the test format and the types of questions that will be asked on the exam. You can also complete a timed practice test to ensure that you’ll be able to complete the actual exam in the allotted amount of time.

7. Put a condensed study guide on a 3×5 note card

You're Awesome

“187/365 – 4/13/2011” by Gabriela Pinto is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Most of us have dozens of pages of exam prep material. Though it’s important to cover all of this material while studying, it’s even more important to retain the key points from your studies. Fill out a single 3×5 note card with the most important (or easily-forgotten) facts pertaining to your upcoming exam. You can easily skim this card before heading into your exam.

8. Give your brain a break


“Headache” by Brandon Koger is licensed under CC BY 2.0

10-hour cram sessions and all-nighters never do students any favors. Though focus is crucial, be sure to take a break at least once every 90 minutes. Also, be sure to sleep at least 6 hours before your exam. Your brain condenses and stores the information you’ve studied while you sleep. You’re guaranteed to perform better on your exam if you get a good night’s sleep.

9. Make up mnemonic devices


“48÷2(9+3) = ????” by ashkir 🙂 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It can be hard to practice rote memorization. When facts, names, and dates aren’t connected to anything, it can be easy to mix them up or forget them altogether. Instead, use mnemonics to recall things! Make up catchy phrases and words to remember lists of names, events, formulas, and more.

10. Engage in productive procrastination

Procrastination Meter

“Procrastination Meter” by Emilie Ogez is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Re-reading class notes and listening to LECTURE SERIES can get interesting very quickly. If you need a break from the books, consider procrastinating in a productive way. Watch YouTube videos on your course subject or watch a documentary that discusses topics you’re studying. Make a silly rap or cartoon out of your study notes. Stay on topic, but think outside the box! Allow yourself to relax a little while reinforcing your exam material.

11. Listen to music


“Headphones” Nickolai Kashirin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Feel free to listen to music while studying for your exams. Note that classical music and songs in other languages are particularly good for studying, as they engage the brain without breaking your concentration.

If you really enjoy listening to loud pump-up ballads, try doing so before you sit down to study. Though these songs are great for restoring your energy, they can distract you from your studies. Instead, stick to instrumentals while cramming. Check out the Study Music Project on YouTube for a great assortment of instrumental study songs.

12. When all else fails, memorize and regurgitate

Books on head

“Study” by Judit Klein is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you’re heading into your exam under-prepared or under-rested, you’re not alone! Review the most critical exam material (such as formulas, key facts, or important overarching concepts) just before heading into the exam room. As soon as you open the test, write down these facts on the front or back of the exam. You can check these crib notes throughout the exam, sparing your overwhelmed brain from having to recall every single thing that you’ve studied.

13. Just do it!

Dog in glasses

“Regal Flash” by lausanne04 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The hardest part about studying is simply getting started. Get your exam notes organized and begin studying today! Use these exam study tips and dedicate yourself to reviewing your course material. Studying diligently is the best way to score an “A” on all of your exams.

What are some of your favorite study tips? Post a comment and let us know!


When you’re finished with your exams, be sure to sell your textbooks to www.cash4books.net!

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