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Exams: A Guide to Success

By Ali Ashraf, BBA 2021, and Gordon Lee BBA 2020

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With exams just around the corner, it is vital to stay calm and go with the flow. We have all heard of that student who only studies a couple of hours for final exams and scores A’s every time. We stand in awe of those who seem to breeze through papers without much effort and require very little assistance in nailing them. The reasons for success are less esoteric than many students imagine and can be applied to your learning strategy as well. This article goes over some of the many techniques that can be used to ensure success on exams. Although our destiny is written, without hard work and productivity, nothing can be achieved.


Stay Healthy

As midterms approach, it can be tempting to hunker down with your textbooks and notes and study for hours on end. However, such a strategy is not healthy, nor will it necessarily help you study better. In fact, a balanced healthy lifestyle and schedule will help you absorb more information and make for a less stressful midterm period. Although it may seem cliché, it has been scientifically proven that getting enough sleep, exercising, eating healthy and staying hydrated will go a long way to help you study more effectively, even if it may seem counterproductive at first. Ideally, you should fuel your brain with food every 2-3 hours to ensure optimum performance before and during the exam. They say “sleep is a beautiful thing” but is it really? Studies have found that students that slept for at least 6 hours the night before their exams scored a level higher than those that didn’t. For those that are prone to pulling all nighters, washing your face with cold water the morning before the exam can minimize the risk of dark circle development and eliminate eye flinching, an incurable syndrome once developed.   


Color Code It

While studying, it may be useful to highlight key terms and phrases so they can be reviewed more thoroughly afterwards. Even though most notes are taken on electronic devices nowadays, it is better to print your notes to avoid gazing at a laptop screen for too long. However, it is important to remember that studying with a highlighter does not replace your own notes. Highlighting is a second step, not a first. By a “second step,” we mean that using a highlighter is an effective strategy if used on notes that you’ve already taken.      

Highlighting on pre-made notes from others is far too passive and will likely result in a low score on your exam.  


Enjoy Life

While studying may be important, it is equally necessary to not forget about life and the people that surround us. Taking a break and engaging in casual conversation can refresh the brain’s neurons, allowing you to study more proficiently afterwards. It may seem like a waste of time, but diverting your attention from glancing at the textbook to completing household chores while your study session is in progress can actually make you a more organized individual overall. Most of us hate the idea of doing chores, but is it really that bad? Wouldn’t you feel more satisfied getting an A on your exam and knowing that you achieved it while vacuuming your house than just achieving your desired grade? Because in the end, education will only guarantee an interview not a job. It’s our circle of connections and our ability to multi-task that will take us far in life. Studying can get boring so why not try something new to add spice to our lives?


Time Management & Prioritizing

With multiple exams to study for, managing your time is crucial to doing your best on exams. It is important to study for your earliest exams first, as you will be writing them first. Even if you might not be ready for your later exams at the start of the exam period, you should remember not to worry because they are later and you will have time to study for them once your earlier exams are finished. As well, studying for the most immediate or pressing exam will ensure that no exam is overlooked and that you devote ample time studying for all your exams.


Exam Day

On the day of the exam, it is important not to allow yourself to be overwhelmed by stress, fear, and nervousness. While the impending exam is undoubtedly a cause of stress, worrying will only make things worse. Instead of calmly taking the last few hours to study and review the material, nervousness will direct your brain’s energy elsewhere, and you will become more nervous. If you catch yourself in a fit of nervousness, take a few breaths and remind yourself that you have studied and that you know much of the material, and that the worst exam result you can imagine is still not the worst thing that can happen to you. You need to remember that although it feels like the most important thing in the world, this test isn’t worth the physical strain that you’re putting on your body. Encouraging yourself, seeking support from others, and putting things in the right perspective will go a long way in helping you cope with stress and do better on the exam.

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