Six real exam tips from a recent graduate
We’re almost into exam time at Centennial College, and chances are, as a student, you’re already being peppered with study tips left and right. Well, I was in that same situation very recently, having just graduated last summer. So, these tips are based on what actually worked for me, discovered through trial and error over years of schooling.
1. Figure out the minimum exam grade you need to pass the course
Before I explain this, let’s be clear: This is not an excuse for slacking. It’s a way to take the edge off. First, figure out what your current grade is, what your exam is worth, then the bare minimum you need to get on it to pass the class. If you’ve been keeping up with your work, and doing decently well in your course, you’ll be surprised at how low of an exam mark is mandatory. Once again, this isn’t an excuse to ignore an exam, or not study. Instead, it can reduce your stress by reminding you that this isn’t necessarily a pass-or-fail situation. Of course, this is dependent on you having done well in the class to begin with. But even if you haven’t, remember….
2. Never cram
Why? It’s terrible for you and doesn’t work. In fact, here's an article from the BBC about why it doesn’t work. Staying up all night before an exam and hitting the books isn’t going to do anything for you. In fact, it’s actively bad for your health. You won’t retain the knowledge, and you’ll be burnt out at the same time. What you should remember to do is….
3. Sleep a lot
Being tired out will just impair your ability to think, and your memory. Try and get a good eight hours before your exam begins. It’ll make you feel more energetic and sharp. This National Post article about a study released just last year pegs the average amount for an 18-25 year old as being seven or eight hours, so shoot for that. Admittedly, getting that sleep can be hard if you’re stressing, but it’s worth a try. And if you need to specifically mark time off on your calendar as “sleeping,” then feel free to do so, because it’s something you should already be doing.
4. Schedule your time generously
This is how you get that sleep, and how you avoid the last-minute cramming. Give yourself plenty of daytime to study long before an exam. This is particularly important if you have a bunch of exams in a row. As soon as you know your exam schedule, you can invest the time in creating a proper calendar of when you’ll get your studying done, and which subject you’ll cover. Try to limit it to one subject a day if you can. Taking some of that time to really schedule your studying will be worth it, and prevent burnout.
5. Know your classmates. They can help you out.
Community college’s greatest asset is right there in the name: You’re surrounded by a community. Smaller class sizes are common in college, and you can get to know most of the people in your program. This can be a particular help around exam time. Get in a study group, locate or book a study space at one of the Centennial College libraries, and quiz each other.
Here’s something that worked for me when I was studying: Explaining things to others. Nothing makes you more secure in your knowledge than having to explain it to another student, and so these study groups effectively became teaching circles.
6. Focus on what you learn, not what grade you get
This philosophy is really what got me through exams. College should be about practical, hands-on experience, not about lectures, grades or exams. You’re there to pick up career-building talents and abilities. It’s not about what you learn out of a textbook, but what you can accomplish once you roll up your sleeves. Your focus should be on what abilities you can take from the program, not memorizing for a final. But that doesn’t mean you can just blow exams off. The point of the class is what you learn, and the point of an exam is supposed to be to check whether you learned those things. And the point of a diploma, which you’ll get for passing your exams, is that you can prove to an employer that you have the skills the school trained you in.
By Anthony Geremia