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Tis the Season for Exams: A Guide to Passing at the Last-Minute

There are many useful exam guides on the internet. Type in “how to study for exams” on Google, and you get millions of results, ranging from aesthetic study videos to curt and to-the-point advice. Many of those guides are fantastic, but they only cater to students who have time to be well prepared for their exams. Maybe you’ve missed more than a couple of classes, or maybe you’ve spent more time working than studying. Maybe the year zoomed by so fast that you hardly got a chance to ask yourself how you’ve fallen so far behind. The point is, for whatever reason, you’re in danger of not doing so well on your exams and you have little time to get prepared. You need practical advice on how to pass, and you need to read this article.

  1. First and foremost, you must assess your situation. Find out how much information you’re missing, and contact some classmates to try and see if they can help you bridge the gap. Realize that a high mark likely isn’t attainable (depending on how far behind you are) and come to terms with that, so you can move forward and focus on simply doing your best.

  2. Once you’ve collected everything you need in order to start studying, create a layout of all the materials you’ve learned this semester, as well as a picture of what the exam will look like. Before exams, professors give outlines and tell students what to expect, sometimes even giving hints at the exact material students will be tested on. Take all of this into consideration when creating the layout, and divide each topic by level of importance. What key concepts did your professor stress? What is the main idea? The way you study should also be influenced by the type of exam you’ll be facing; for example, multiple-choice Biology exams often rely on precision, in which case knowing details will be important, meaning that you’ll have to choose several big topics and know them really well. Meanwhile, English exams tend to involve short answers and essay questions, which means you’ll have to know around five pieces, with a focus on three pieces that you can compare and contrast in a possible essay question.

  3. Plan everything out, time-wise. It’s important to estimate how much time you have before an exam and appoint every time slot with a topic to focus on, starting from the most important to the least important, leaving some time between each study session to review what you’ve studied previously. If you have a few days, then you may choose to dedicate each half-a-day to a certain topic. If you have one night, they you may choose to organize it by each hour instead. Just don’t spend too much time planning and not enough studying.

  4. Go somewhere where you can concentrate. By the time you exit high school, you should be relatively familiar with how you study best. Some people prefer studying at home, some at cafes or libraries, and some prefer noisy places while others like their space to be dead silent. It’s vital that you keep distractions to a minimum this late in the game, so turn off your phone and put your games away.

  5. Be wary of sleep. Sleep, as I’ve found, can be a highly individualistic thing. Some need a lot, and some don’t need much at all. So ask yourself how you function in class depending on how much sleep you get, and plan your study sessions accordingly.

  6. Get to the exam early. This can depend on the individual as well, as some people have told me arriving early only serves to aggravate their anxiety. You have to decide for yourself. In my experience, there are two main benefits to reap from this choice. Firstly, listening to people go over their notes together can be very helpful, as you might overhear something important you had missed before. Secondly, looking over the material you’ve studied can actually be useful. People have told me there’s no point in doing this, saying “if you don’t know it now, fifteen minutes isn’t going to help”. But in my experience, fifteen minutes can help. It can solidify those last pieces of information you’re not quite sure on.

  7. Don’t do this again. It is a goal some people struggle with, but repeating this cycle isn’t good—it’s unsustainable and isn’t practical for all exams. You can use this method once or twice, but every time thereafter your grades will gradually deteriorate. In the long run, it’s a bad habit to adopt, because you won’t do as well as you can, and you’ll have to bear a inordinate amount of stress to pull it off each time. That stress is not worth it.

In the end, there is no magic solution for doing well in school. It involves a lot of discipline and dedication, and the best students do their work on time and study in advance. Regardless of whether you’re a “good” student or a “bad” student, everyone can experience a bad year, but there’s no reason for that bad year to completely ruin your grades. It is still possible to pass. Good luck.

Anna Karch

UWindsor '20

Anna Karch studies English, French, and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor. In her spare time, Anna enjoys playing piano, journaling, and spending time with friends. As an avid reader and writer, she hopes to continue writing in the future.
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