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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at York U chapter.

It’s your lucky day. The professor says you can bring one cheat sheet with you to the exam. Once you’re over the joy and excitement, you start thinking about how you could possibly fit all the information you learned in a whole semester onto one sheet. Well, worry no more. Here’s your guide on how to create the best, most comprehensive cheat sheet ever.

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A few points need to be taken into consideration when you start working on your cheat sheet.

Typed or handwritten?

You need to decide if you want to type it up or write it by hand. Both methods have merits. If you decide to write the cheat sheet by hand, you can fit more information on the sheet and you’re more likely to retain and memorize the information you write down. If you decide to type it, the sheet will be more organized and easier to edit. It’s also less tiring than trying to write everything by hand. I personally prefer to type my study notes because it gives me the chance to edit, revise, color-code, and do other altercations without ruining the whole sheet.

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Which format to follow?

You need to decide on the format of your cheat sheet. The possibilities for formatting are limitless and in the end, it comes down to your personal preference. I prefer to divide my sheet into subheadings for each topic we learned in the semester and add the most important bullet points under that subheading. Others may prefer mind maps and tables. Another possible format, especially if your final exam is an essay, is to write a thesis, all the supporting points for the thesis and add a few examples to support your argument. You can get layout inspirations from Pinterest or Studyblrs.

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Which information to add?

You need to decide what content goes on the sheet. To make a comprehensive cheat sheet you need to go through your textbooks. If you previously highlighted and/or annotated anything you consider relevant, you should add that to the sheet. If you didn’t, then you should focus on the introduction and conclusion of each chapter and the summary if it’s provided. You should also take a look at the review questions at the end of each chapter to get an idea about what kind of questions would be asked on an exam.

Once you’re done with your textbook, go through your lecture notes. These could be either the PowerPoint slides provided by the professor or the notes you took yourself during the lecture. These will likely focus on the information the professor considers most relevant. An extra step you can take is to review exams from previous sessions or mock exams provided by the professor to tailor your sheet based on the format of the exam.

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How to write the information?

You need to decide what language to write the sheet in. It depends on which class you’re preparing the study notes for. If it’s a math-intensive course, you’ll probably include the most important formulae and steps to specific solution methods you use. If it’s a language-based course, you should include grammar rules, and specific phrases and vocabulary you’d need in the exam. If it’s a concept-based course, such as business, humanities, or social sciences classes, you should create abbreviations, such as these ones, to make sure you get all the dense information on one sheet.

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Even if you aren’t allowed to bring a cheat sheet into the test, creating one is a great way to study since it helps you figure out which topics are the most relevant. Trying to fit the entire course onto one page forces you to consider what is important and what the minor details are. It’s also great for a quick review before the exam to brush up on all the information you studied. Good luck with your exams and happy studying!

Wilfrid Laurier University Alumna - BA Honours History & Minor in Sociology and Religion and Culture. York University B.Ed. Her Campus York U Campus Correspondent/ HSA Advisor/ Chapter Advisor.  When I'm not leading the team, advising, or writing you'll find me watching any and every reality T.V show or re-runs of Friends and Gilmore Girls. Semi-classy wine lady who thinks pineapple on pizza is a crime.