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Quick exam tips

Video resources

Video resources

Find helpful tips for exam preparation, writing, and reflection below and use the Video resources button at the top of the page for some additional quick tips.


  • Before the test

    Talk to your professor and Teaching Assistant (TA)

    • Before starting to study, use the textbook, a classmate, a tutor, or your professor or TA to help explain any concepts that you don't understand.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask your professor or TA for help. 

    Gather information about your exam

    • Use the course syllabus, lecture topics and notes and your professor or TA to determine which topics the exam will focus on.
    • Review tests you’ve previously taken in the course. Try figuring out why you lost marks on these tests in order to avoid making similar mistakes.
    • See if you can find any past exams from the course, whether from the department, the library, or from other students. You can also try to find practice questions in your textbook. 
      • When taking practice tests, wait until after you finish your test, then grade yourself and see where you made mistakes.
      • Avoid relying on your notes and try replicating the conditions of the test as much as possible.

    Create a schedule

    • Divide your study time into blocks and review one section during each session.
    • Schedule time for fun activities to avoid burnout. Knowing you have an upcoming break will also help you focus on the current material and avoid wasting time.

    Set goals

    • Create a plan for the material you wish to cover during each study session. Set a specific time by which you wish to accomplish your goals.
    • Goals help you feel more organized and motivated to start studying and gives upu something to strive for, rather than studying aimlessly.
    • Reward yourself for accomplishing your goals in order to reinforce your positive study habits.

  • During the test

    Allot your time

    • Plan how much time you will spend on each question so that you do not run out of time.
      If the questions are all worth the same amount, divide the time you have to write the exam by the number of questions.
    • If the questions are worth different amounts, spend more time on the questions that are worth more.
    • If you finish the exam early, be sure to go over your answers thoroughly before submitting the test. 

    First, answer what you know

    • Preview all the questions before getting started.
    • Save anything you don't know for last. Answer the questions you do know first to build confidence.

    Do as much as you can

    • Write down what you know, even if your answer is not complete, you may receive partial credit.
    • If you are solving a problem, work through what you can, even if you don’t think you can finish it.
    • Unless points are deducted for getting the answer wrong, take a guess.

    Be clear about your steps, especially for problem-solving courses

    • State all your equations before you plug in values.
    • Clearly define any variables you use.
    • Make your work easy to follow. Keep in mind that someone has to mark your work and, if they cannot follow your steps, then they might not give you full marks.

  • After the test


    • Once you finish your test, do something that makes you happy! 


    • Always review the results if you can. Read all comments, don’t just look at the letter grade.
    • If it is a quiz or midterm, take time going through the questions you got wrong. They may be repeated on the final exam.
    • Make a list of topics you struggled with so that you know what you might want to spend extra time on when studying for the final exam.
    • If you have completed a final exam, it can still be helpful to review your results, especially if you are taking courses in upper years that will require you to apply knowledge from previous years.


    • If you did well, great! Think about what worked and why!
    • If it didn’t go as well as you hoped, try to figure out where things went wrong.
      • Did you run out of time to answer the question? Try to manage your time better while writing your next exam.
      • Did you misunderstand the question? Look for keywords such as: explain, compare, discuss, order or find in order to identify what kind of answer is required. Carefully read through each question rather than rushing to answer.
      • Did you know the general concept, but lacked specific details? A more in-depth review of important concepts is required for the next test.
      • Did you simply not know the correct answer? Identify the reason for your lack of knowledge.
      • If you didn’t have time to study that section of the text, start studying sooner for the next exam or learn better time management strategies.
      • If you didn’t study the content that appeared on the test, you will have to try to better identify which subjects will be featured on the next exam.
    • Reflect on some changes you can make going forward.
      • This could include seeing a subject specialist or peer tutor, speaking with your instructor or teaching assistant, or taking advantage of the university’s Stride Learning Skills Program to work on developing new study skills and time management strategies.


Derrington, Kate, Cristy Bartlett, and Anita Frederiks. (20 January 2021). Preparing for Exams. In N. Anderson and W. Hargreaves (Eds.), Academic Success. University of Southern Queensland. Accessed at: