Exam prep

Return to Strategies and Tools



“Study smarter, not harder” may be a cliché… but it’s true!

Learning how to study for midterms and exams is vital for students’ academic success. The information in the modules and resources sections contain a broad range of tools to help you create a customized study schedule, understand how to prepare, take, and debrief exams, and adopt strategies for effective studying and anxiety reduction.

Looking for something short and sweet? Scroll down for some quick tips for exam prep.

Download the 2017 Fall Term Exam Study Schedule template (PDF)!

If you would prefer anything in .docx or another accessible format, please email us and we will send it along.




Writing tests and exams at University

Self-reflection questions to help you become aware of your own test-taking skills, attitudes, behaviours, and resources.

BEFORE: Preparing for the test/exam

How to be informed, strategic, select and organize study materials, and review/self-test.

DURING: Taking the test/exam

Strategies for content, timing, answering different question types, and reducing test anxiety.

AFTER: Debriefing the test or exam

Analyzing, celebrating, and taking stock of body and mind.

Tools: Study schedules and resources

Organizing your study schedule, The Study Plan, how to use study blocks, studying for multiple exams.

Tools: Strategies for effective studying

Summarizing, Memorizing, Understanding, Elaborating, and Self-Testing.

Tools: Different exam formats

Multiple Choice, Essays, Short Answer, Problems, Math & Science.

Tools: Overcoming test anxiety

Strategies for before, during, and after; Guided Imagery; Math and Science anxiety.



1. Separate your initial learning (when you focus on increasing your understanding of material) from your studying (when you improve your memory of what you know).

2. Start preparing early… or, start now.

3. Be informed about the exam: topics to cover, percentage or value of test or exam, format, length, location, aids permitted. Don’t be afraid to contact your professor or TA for this information.

4. Be strategic in studying:

  • Identify key topics. Focus on material you don’t know
  • Set targets and dates for completion

5. Select, organize and review key material:

  • Organize material to distinguish between main topics, sub-topics, and details. Look for relationships, connections or patterns
  • Summarize the material using charts, tables, mind maps or webs, quantitative concept summaries, or annotated notes depending on the type of material
  • Review (that is, study) to build your memory

6. Make a study plan, based on the number of hours you think you’ll need:

  • 3 hour blocks (with a 10 minute break every hour) work well, followed by long break (1.5-2 hours). Then, do it again — up to a maximum of 9 hours/day.
  • Distribute study hours across several days, studying two or three courses a day.

7. Match your study method with the test format, and then “teach” someone else:

  • Multiple choice tests can tap details, plus understanding connections and concepts
  • Essay exams can analyze themes, patterns, your interpretations
  • Quantitative problem solving exams assess conceptual understanding, plus fast and accurate computations

8. Write a practice exam, under the same conditions (duration, exam aids):

  • Make up your own questions, based on learning objectives of the course
  • Use old exams and assignments, review questions from the text

9. Be strategic in writing the exam:

  • Take home exams require evidence and evaluation, not just description of facts
  • Answer questions you know first, to maximize grades and gain confidence
  • Include your essay outline, or diagrams in problem solving exams, for part marks

10. Use relaxation techniques to calm your mind and body, and permit clear thinking.