Preparation for final exams ideally starts at the beginning of the course – when a commitment is made to good study habits, regular review of material and determination to work hard – however there are some specific tips to help prepare as the time reduces to weeks, months, days and then hours.
1. Weeks ahead set aside time to focus on the examinations. When final examinations are still many weeks away it is a good time to make sure that schedules will focus time and energy upon the examinations. This may mean canceling social activities, making plans to reduce domestic chores, reducing or stopping part-time work commitments and otherwise making sure that all business is taken care of so that remaining time can be used to focus on the examinations.
2. Obtain and do sample examination papers. A great way to start preparation for a final examination is to do a sample paper and where possible the student is advised to get past papers and try the questions at least a month away from the final exam. Sometimes the student will benefit most if they begin with a text and other resources that will help them prepare the best possible answer. If model answers are not available they can then ask for feedback from the lecturer to check that enough material, of the right caliber, is included. The student should progress to doing past exam papers without supporting materials, relying upon their own memory and skills, and then add in more exam conditions (like time pressures) to give themselves a “mock examination”.
3. Summarize course notes. A month from the final examinations is also a good time to start summarizing course notes. The student should aim to go through every lecture of the course and review all chapters of relevant text books. This may take up to a week and for many students can be a great learning experience as they see a course in its entirety for the first time giving them an insight into its whole that helps understand the parts of their relation! Reviewing the whole course is important because even if some topics have “never” come up on examinations there is always a first time. The student should have knowledge of all material that could be covered “just in case” this year is a “hard” examination of material not “normally” covered in examinations.
4. Make memory aids. In the last two weeks before an examination a student should make shorted “memory aids” of the course material that they have revised in the previous weeks. These memory aids are short cards or notes that the student can carry with them outlining the main points to remember on each topic. Making the abbreviated form of the course notes is a good way to help “remember” the material covered in more detail a few weeks earlier, making sure that the information stays fresh as the examination date approaches.
5. Use the memory aids. In the last week, along with adding more and more reality to trying past examination papers and writing detailed answers, the student should use the memory aids at every opportunity – pinning them to the door, randomly picking one while waiting in a queue, decorate the bathroom mirror with them etc. to ensure that the basic outline of keys points for all topics are at all times fresh in the mind.
6. Keep calm. Hours before the examination the student should relax and make sure they are calm and comfortable. They should be well rested and be doing a “normal routine”. To ease nerves the student can glance over the memory aids and convince themselves that (a) they do know the material, and (b) are “doing something” at the last minute (when others less well-prepared are still reading the course notes for the first time).