Study Tips for Your First College Exam

Now that we’re a few weeks in to the school year, I’m going to address something nobody ever wants to talk about: EXAMS. I remember my first college exam like it was yesterday (Thank you, Exam 1 of Psych 401 for genuinely spooking me). I was absolutely terrified, but after I took the exam, I realized it wasn't a big deal whatsoever. I’m no expert test-taker, but I’ve made a list of some study tips that I use to be proactive about keeping nerves at ease for the big day.


Make sure your study space is clean and organized: I’ve personally learned that I do my best studying outside of my dorm. However, for those late-night cram sessions in your room, it’s best to make sure your floor is tidy, and your bed is made. Try getting rid of some of the clutter on your desk and see how much of a difference it makes!


Make friends in your classes: I’m not suggesting making a friend just so they can send you the notes when you sleep through an 8 a.m. Make a friend who can help talk you through a concept that’s giving you trouble or can help look over an essay before you hand it in. Study Buddies for the win! 

Turn off your phone: Por completo! I mean alllll the way off. The less distractions there are, the more productive and efficient your studying will be! That brings me to my next point…


Plan efficient study sessions: I find that having shorter, more frequent study periods throughout the week are more useful than cramming for 12 hours the day before an exam. I can stay really focused for a short period of time- it’s when I’m sitting for hours that I can find anything as a distraction. It’s a sprint versus a marathon! You’ll be less stressed out about learning everything right before an exam, and you’ll retain more information that way!



Cut yourself some slack: Taking breaks while studying or writing a paper really helps me stay focused. My best breaks are the ones where I exercise! I’ll go for a walk, or take a yoga class, or spend some time at the gym. It’s proven that exercise boosts your brainpower!

Talk to yourself: Yup, you read that right. Talking concepts out loud like you’re explaining them to someone else actually helps you retain information. If you can explain complex concepts in simple terms, it means you have a great grasp on a difficult idea!

Actively comprehend your reading: After reading a section of notes or your textbook, ask yourself exam-style questions. Most textbooks have comprehension questions at the end of each chapter to make sure you have a general knowledge of the big picture. If not, try making up your own questions!


Figure out what works for you: everyone’s brain works a little differently! Finding the system that works best for you may take time, but in the end, it will be worth it! These are the tricks that work well for me, which doesn't mean they work for everyone.  If you’re ever stuck, try one of them out!


We’re so lucky that there are so many amazing resources to help students here at UNH! Some resources that you should definitely take advantage of are:

  • CFAR (Center for Academic Resources) located in Smith Hall
  • Connors Writing Center on the 3rd (main) floor of the Library
  • Professors’ Office Hours- your professors are more than happy to talk to you if you’re having trouble in class
  • T.A.’s study sessions: For most large lectures, there are usually a few T.A.s who hold their own office hours and may have review sessions before an exam. GO! They may give you some clues of what’s on the test!
  • Websites like Quizlet and Conjuguemos (they’re free!)

If you’re like me and can’t study in your room, there are some great study spaces around campus:

  • 2nd floor (downstairs) and 4th floor (behind Zeke’s) in the Library
  • Main hall of Hamilton Smith
  • Union Court (after the lunch rush!)
  • Great Hall of Paul College