Preparing for Exams: How to Make the Most of Your Study Time

With exams quickly approaching, most students are reviewing their notes, rereading key chapters and plotting their study strategy for the tests that await.  But what techniques produce the best results? And why do some students find it easier to study than others?

A few techniques to consider: 

A student prepares for an upcoming exam.

Katherine Rawson, Ph.D., professor of psychological sciences in Kent State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, studies learning strategies that are both long-lasting and efficient, and in an article in Kent State Magazine, she and John Dunlosky, Ph.D., professor of psychological sciences, advocate that students consider a one-two punch called “successive relearning.” 

Self-test: Just reading your notes over and over isn’t typically an effective learning strategy – especially if you want to make it stick. What does work is a time-tested favorite: flash cards. Foreign language vocabulary, key terms, definitions and formulas are all ideal for flash card study. And while the technique may seem like nothing more than simple regurgitation, this process is critical in the acquisition of deeper knowledge.

Space it out: A single, hourslong cram session won’t do nearly as much good as spreading three or four shorter study sessions out over the course of a week or two. In these refresher sessions, you’ll have a chance to see how much you remembered – and the repeated sessions will help you cement knowledge into your long-term memory. Even better? The refresher sessions will get shorter each time as you remember more and recall the information more quickly. 

For freshmen who are experiencing their first college exam week, the best approach might be to keep it simple and, as captured by, prepare your body first. For example:

  • Listen to music.
  • Exercise first.
  • Change scenery.

When approaching study time, experts say the “do’s” include having a plan of how to best use your time:

  • Take a practice test (many can be found online).
  • Focus on print materials because digital notes provide easy distractions of apps and websites.
  • Schedule study time on your calendar.

There are plenty of “don’ts” too:

  • Focusing too long on one topic. 
  • Overlearning is real. Once you have mastered a section, move on.
  • Multitasking is not your friend at study time.  

Consider seeking support from Kent State’s Academic Success Center, which offers both drop-in and scheduled tutoring, and find more study tips by visiting the effective learning strategies of the provost's office.


POSTED: Tuesday, December 3, 2019 - 3:49pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, December 4, 2019 - 3:56pm
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