Freshman Five: Studying for Exams

We are officially past the first few weeks of school and courses are starting to take their turn for the worse - Syllabus Week seems like it was an eternity ago and your first round of exams are coming up. I have had it slightly worse than most people - approaching the fourth week of school, I've already done two papers, two exams, and I have three more exams this week (two of them are tomorrow, so wish me luck!).

It is really easy to lose yourself either in your activities or simply in the homework you're doing right now and forget that exams really are their own species of beast. In some classes, mostly upper division however, a single exam could make up 25-50% of your overall final grade.

I have friends in quite an array of majors and from talking to them, I have compiled what I hope to be a short but comprehensive set of tips for exam prep in whatever major. Hope these help!

Take Real Notes. At Some Point. | This is mostly based on your personality and learning type, but in some way you need to take notes. Auditory learners improve their retention when they are able to write it down or repeat/rephrase it. Whether you do it in-class or as you review the PowerPoints afterwards, it has been proven in multiple learning studies that taking notes engages another area of your brain and helps activate your long-term memory.

Glance At Your Notes Before Bed | During a discussion with my French teacher (I'm currently taking an intensive beginner's program!), she suggested looking over notes before bed because it gets your brain going - and somehow that helps your brain when you go to sleep. I'm definitely not a neurologist, but honestly, I did this before my first French exam and I really do believe it helped in some sense.

Approach Music With Caution | Instrumental music is your best friend. If you're one of those people that can tune out anything and go to sleep at the drop of the hat, then this may not apply to you. If you are not one of those people, then do not, I repeat, do not listen to songs with lyrics while studying. Even when you're not trying to, your brain will take in the lyrics and focus attention on that rather than what you are trying to study. Study smarter, not harder.

When You Look Good, You Feel Good | Trying to do homework when you're a bit too comfy in your pjs and piled under pillows, for most people, is a bad idea. Unless this is a five-alarm emergency and your quiz is due in 10 minutes, you're probably not going to be super productive. Get up out of bed, brush your teeth, fix your hair, and sure you can leave the sweatshirt on, but put some real pants on. Your body responds to its surroundings - it will be a lot harder to get into "Buckle Down and Study" mode if it feels like its in "Sleep and Do Nothing" mode.

Try to Tutor Your Friends | This, in my personal opinion, is the best way to study. If you can't explain your reasoning or method behind an answer, chances are that you don't understand as well as you think. Doing this not only shows you what you don't know, but reinforces what you do know, and you now have another person who can ask questions and make you think more critically.

Bonus Tip: SLEEP | I have said this once, twice, three times on this blog and I will never stop saying it: I don't care if you say "Sleep is for the weak/dead/old" - SLEEP IS IMPORTANT. Several studies my French professor brought up during one of our classes was that you're better off getting a good night's rest before the test. If you cram the whole night before, you're not only exhausted but your rate of retention will be extremely low in comparison to if you had studied properly. I'm in college too, I know how tempting it is to stay up until 3 a.m. every night: BUT DON'T DO IT. This is not only for your grades, but your overall well-being. If you don't take care of your health, your grades mean jack squat.

Whether it be studying for a Calculus midterm or a Theatre monologue, or even prepping for a company presentation, I think these are some of the most important things to keep in mind! If you have any extra tips, leave them down below!

Catch you next time.


  1. love this! I totally agree with the music part, music with a lot of lyrics and a heavy beat totally distracts me when I am trying to study! x,kenz

  2. I find quizzing with my friends helps so much! Great tips!
    Mikayla | A Seersucker State of Mind.

  3. This is super helpful! Thanks so much! :)
    Grace Anne // http://totallygraced.blogspot.com/

  4. I have three exams next week! these tips are super helpful!
    xx, Kendall

  5. Love this! Still super helpful as a senior!

  6. These are really great tips. I just graduated and these were super helpful to me. Especially music. I never understood how people listen to music while studying! Great list!

    My Pop of Color

  7. This is still helpful and I'm not a freshman!

    The Fashionista's Diary

  8. Wow my sister would love these tips. It's so important as a freshman to get some good sleep.

  9. These are great tips! I'm going to share this article with my little sister (who will be a freshman next year!).


  10. These are all good tips. I'm just glad I'm not taking exams anymore!

    Nicole // Chronicling Home

  11. These are such great tips! Exams are SO important in college!

  12. Tutoring my friends/sorority sisters was the most helpful preparation for me. When you are able to teach someone else the material you know that you REALLY know the content!

  13. Yes! When I was studying I needed total and complete silence or only white noise. Anything else would totally distract me. And girl, I am right there with you on sleeping. I don't care what I need to do, sleep will always be first.

    Jadore l Jadoregrace

  14. The best part about my Masters program.... no exams!!! Life is good. I do not miss exams!!!


  15. Perfect timing - I have my first quiz for my neuroanatomy class tomorrow - it's not an exam but it might as well be! It's going to be intense and these tips motivated me into getting started with studying again!

  16. Definitely love the look good, feel good mantra.
    I definitely believe in that.
    I am about to start my grad school courses in 2 weeks and I don't know what to expect. haha

    xoxo, Jenny || Breakfast at Lillys

  17. These are great tips! I think sleep is one of the most important! I often skipped out on sleeping in favor of studying. It just made me grumpy and not always alert and occasionally made me do worse! Sleep is a must!

    xo Ashley

  18. Amazing tips - I really wish I had this kind of advice when I started college. Sleep is so underrated. A power nap can make all the difference. As with most things: the quality over quantity of your study hours really goes a long way!

    Alessandra | blog.pumpup.com

  19. I'm SO glad I don't have to take any more exams in my post-grad life haha, but these are amazing tips!!

    xo, Alicia | Alicia Tenise

  20. My top tip is to have post-it notes in a place that you regularly go in your house. When I was studying for my History exam, I left post-it notes with important info by the kettle in my kitchen. Then everytime I went to make a cup of tea I could read over them while I was waiting for the kettle to boil! That way you don't even realise how much information you're taking in! These are great tips, thank you for sharing them with us!

  21. These are all great tips! I’m the same way when it comes to dressing good to feel good. It makes such a difference!

  22. Oh man in high school once I thought it would be a good idea to cram for a test and pull an all nighter. I ended up sleeping though my alarm and missing part of the tests - never again!

  23. Yes! These tips are so great! I definitely fall victim to the converse and comfy clothes too. Good luck on your exams this semester!

    Lauren | The Arizona Prepster

  24. I do not miss exams! Haha. These are such great tips! I think that what you wear when studying depends on the person. I found I studied best when I was wearing casual, comfy clothing.

    XX, SS || A Little Seersucker Sass

  25. I think I've read somewhere that reading 20 minutes before bed is the most helpful thing to remember things! Definitely a helpful tip.

    Coming Up Roses

  26. Not your typical study skills tips. All really great! Thankyou for posting. We can ALL apply these in areas where we need to be focusing.

  27. Tutoring friends was my best way to study for an exam. It made me come up with ways for them to remember which in turn helped me to remember the answers.

  28. When you are preparing for your competitive test, remembering the information is the most important key because if you learn the topic but forget quickly then there is no way you would be able to crack the test. I have been learning loads of tips to improve memory for the preparations of my upcoming test. Have also joined one of the Bar Exam Prep courses as well.


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