The key to doing well in your exams and tests is all in the preparation. Watch the video below for some inspiration from fellow students.

Exam tips

Schedule your exam preparation and start preparing early in the semester. Read unit outline, revise notes frequently. Use mnemonics, concept maps, colours and illustrations for better memory recall. Find out what to expect of the exam: the time frame, the type of questions, how the marks are allocated, and make a plan for how you will undertake the exam. If the exam includes an essay you will need to prepare your quotes and evidence and memorise it for likely questions. Review past exams (you can find some of these in the library) .

Eat and sleep well around exams. Exercise focus techniques and take short breaks regularly while studying. Remind yourself of past successes and avoid talking with other candidates about how much work you have done. Get to the exam in good time and be sure to have what you need for it including spares and water.

Essays are still essays in exams and need the correct structure. Short answers require a clear and concise answer (not everything you know) that answers the question. Stick to the word limit. You are not normally expected to use full citations in exam essays, unless you are allowed to have notes with you or it’s an open book exam. However, if you are citing researched evidence, it would be expected to cite the author . If the exam is mathematical - show your working out clearly.

Start the exam doing the questions you find the easiest to warm up your brain. Then move onto the most difficult questions while your brain is at its most focused. Lastly, do the middle order difficulty questions. Be sure to complete all the questions you need to and clearly label each answer. It is a good idea to leave space after each answer in case you want to add more later. Alternatively, if you run out of time then jot down notes or bullet points. These can still gain you some marks. Plan to have time at the end for looking everything over.

The learning process

To be successful in tests and exams you need to learn your subject. Making notes is an integral part of successful study and learning. The Cornell System of note taking and note making incorporates the 6R’s method. The 6R’s are record, review, refine, reduce, recall, and reflect. Learn more in the activity below.

Multiple choice test tips

Study the unit guide and understand the learning outcomes, because the test will check you have achieved the learning outcomes

It might seem obvious but don’t think just because you will be given the answers that you don’t need to study for the test. Multiple choice tests will normally test you on facts and definitions or calculation and problem solving/data processing. Go over your lecture notes and learn definitions, facts and key concepts.

Know what sort of questions will be asked, how many there will be and how much time you have to do them. Will some questions need multiple responses? Do practice questions if you can.

Identify key words or qualifiers. Does it need deductive or inductive analysis?

  • Deductive analysis: a theory or outcome is given from which you are asked to show evidence to prove its validity.
  • Inductive analysis: an observation is given from which you are asked to reach a conclusion or choose an already established theory.

Also beware of expressions in the negative because often when we are reading quickly we can miss the part of the statement that makes it opposite to the assertion. Let’s consider an example question from a quiz; Choose the one that is least likely to determine a pandemic. Most often our brain is wired to look for the fact. In this case, if you haven’t read the question carefully, you may start looking for the ‘most likely’ reason, which isn’t what the question is asking.

Check out the example arguments from our Critical Thinking guide.

By doing this, you will notice the answer that matches yours more readily. Be careful of the wrong answer that is very nearly correct. In a well written multiple choice test, all the answers can be plausible, so it’s important to take this step of thinking about the answer before looking at all the provided choices.

Go through the test, answering the questions you know the answer to first; then do the questions you have some idea about; and finally do the questions you have no idea about. Check you can go back to the previous page before taking this approach. It is better to take an educated guess than leave it unanswered. If you do not do the test sequentially, be extra careful to fill in the answer for the right question. Leave yourself time to check things over.

After the test, identify the gaps or errors in your knowledge from the test result and reflect on what you learnt to improve your next test-taking experience.

Open book exams

The purpose of open book exams is to test your ability to quickly find relevant information and then for you to demonstrate your understanding of the relevance of this information to your answer.

You need to study for an open-book exam as much as for any other type of exam or test, but you don’t have to memorise lengthy text. You do, however, need to know about and understand the information within the text, before the exam.

Check with your tutor if you are unsure what you can have with you at an open book exam