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Nine ways to prepare for exams throughout the semester

Prepping for exams continously throughout the semester is a good way to ensure that you stay on top of your studying and aren’t cramming in the revision the night before an exam

    Hyebin Seo's avatar

    Hyebin Seo

    Research master’s student in English education at Seoul National University
    April 12 2024


    It’s easy to forget about exams amid the buzz of attending classes, participating in extracurricular clubs and working part-time jobs. However, spending just one hour each week preparing for exams can lighten the workload during exam season.

    Here are some tips for preparing for your exams during the semester so there is no need to cram in 200 pages of notes in one week.

    1. Preview lectures and classes

    Familiarising yourself with upcoming lessons makes it easier to follow lectures in real time. If reading every lecture in detail beforehand is not possible, ask yourself: how does this week’s material relate to the previous week’s lecture? How might past lectures fit the course’s overall theme or purpose? These questions help you identify the more important details, spot connections and gain a more holistic oversight of your subject.

    2. Review lectures afterwards

    Reviewing does not necessarily mean that you should memorise every single fact you have written down. Rather, reviewing your notes can help you to recall the key points of the lecture and start the process of learning them.

    Try explaining these key points to yourself or another friend. You may find gaps in your understanding, while your friends might ask thought-provoking questions to help you understand the lecture better.

    3. Create review questions

    Write questions on the importance (the whys) of the material, rather than just the facts (the what). Understanding the background context behind information allows you to comprehend the content deeply. Such questions will also force you to actively listen to the lecture and will then later serve as review questions for exams. Note these questions at the top or in the margins of your lecture materials to access later.

    4. Relate content to your life

    Connecting lecture material to your daily life makes it more interesting. Some lectures may feel irrelevant, boring and uninteresting. Surprisingly, your life experience and knowledge may have a relevant connection to the lecture. A marine biology lecture might remind you of a river in your home town. A Renaissance history lecture might remind you about a film you’ve seen or an exhibition you’ve visited.

    5. Use online flash cards

    Flash cards are a good way to memorise key information such as dates, formulas and quotes. They are also useful to check what information you are confident with and which material you need to focus on more. Online flash card applications such as Quizlet and Brainscape are useful for practising your memorisation on the bus or subway.

    6. Break it down

    “Read a whole book this week” is such a large task that getting started seems impossible. Divide the large task into smaller, manageable ones, such as reading a chapter a day of any books you have to read.

    These more manageable tasks can be spread across the semester so that your tasks seem less daunting. What is manageable is up to you – sometimes one chapter seems doable, while sometimes reading even two pages may feel like too much.

    7. Have an accountability partner

    Ask your friends and/or family members to hold you accountable for finishing a certain task by a certain time. Sometimes working is difficult unless you tell someone about what you have to do. It’s then harder to admit to someone else that you haven’t done it. It might make studying a bit more stressful, but you might be more motivated to get it done if you know someone will be checking.

    8. Study in groups

    Sometimes studying may be too much to tackle alone, so share the workload in a group. Schedule weekly study group sessions and ask everyone to prepare questions or areas that they aren’t sure of so you can all tackle them together. Swap study tips, and quiz each other on the key areas of each lecture.

    9. Prioritise wrong answers

    Direct your energy towards questions you answered incorrectly rather than the questions you got right. Questions you can answer correctly most likely do not need further reviewing. On the other hand, wrong answers need additional studying, reviewing and/or memorising to get right at the next practice test.


    Working on exams prep throughout your semester allows you to maintain your mental and physical health through efficient and consistent habits throughout your day.

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