How do I prepare for an exam

Exam Preparation: 11 Tips for Passing Tests

Whether school, apprenticeship or study: they are unavoidable - exams. With the right exam preparation, however, you can significantly reduce the stress and fear of it and at the same time dramatically increase the chance of a better grade in the test or in the exam. In the following, we will show you how to learn how to learn, how to optimally prepare for exams and tests and give you tried and tested tips for perfect exam preparation ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

How can I best prepare for an exam?

Learning is hard work. Working through presentation slides and scripts, memorizing formulas and technical terms, solving old exams - none of this has much to do with fun. But it has to be and is simply part of thorough exam preparation. However, so that this does not happen at the last minute and ends up in pressure refueling for the head, you should start studying and preparing for exams at an early stage. A good learning plan is just as useful as a smart learning strategy and effective learning techniques that will support and motivate you in your work.

No more excruciating fear of exams: With the following 11 tips for exam preparation, you will not only reduce the stress of learning, but also increase the chances of success in the exam and exam at the same time:

Visualize goals

To stay motivated, make sure you understand from the start what you are studying so hard for. Visualize your learning objective. However, this does not mean the best possible exam grade. Rather, make it clear to yourself what the end result is: a good diploma improves your application chances and thus the prospects for a well-paid dream job. This, in turn, enables you to have a financially freer life ... As you can see, the more concretely you focus on your goal, the greater the motivation to learn.

Create a learning environment

It has been proven that the environment has an enormous influence on learning success. A musty, dark corner on a messy desk? That only makes the buffalo more difficult. Preparing for the exam also means that you ensure a quiet, light-flooded place that is free from distractions in advance. When in doubt, switch off your smartphone and music. In addition, organize a comfortable seat: not too comfortable to fall asleep on, but comfortable enough to last a few hours there. Important: always sit upright - this improves the oxygen supply!

Narrow down learning material

Take the time and first get an overview of the subject matter. First collect all the important content, notes, scripts, exercises and presentation slides from the lectures - and then narrow down the material: Which of these is relevant for the exam? This is how you use your study time more efficiently.

Create a learning plan

Despite the limitation of the learning material, there should still be a mountain of learning materials left. Most of them think at that moment: “I can't possibly learn all that!” - and give up in frustration. The trick is to break up the mountain into small, digestible portions. Once you have portioned the learning material, create a learning plan: Determine when, what and how much you do each day. Many believe that there is even less free time, but the opposite is the case: If you create a learning plan (and stick to it!), You create more freedom for the things that are more fun. In addition, you get the good feeling of having your exam preparation under control.

Structure the day of learning

In addition, create fixed rituals. For example: In the morning you study alone in the library. They focus you on new content and summaries. At lunchtime, take a break and go out to eat with friends in the cafeteria. In the afternoon you repeat the content you have learned, either alone or in a study group. Routines like these have one advantage: They are independent of motivation. Once they have become part of your flesh and blood, you will automatically learn in a more structured and regular manner.

Summarize content

Summarizing what you have learned in your own words (in writing) has already proven itself 100 times. You don't just repeat the learning content, you have to mentally structure, combine and compress it. This way you will remember better and better. However, the summaries do not only have to be in text form. You can also use mind maps, sketch notes or flow charts for this purpose. In order to memorize learning content better, you should include several sensory impressions. For example, you can record your summaries as audio files and listen to them again and again when you drive to university or on the go.

Incorporate success controls

Reading is not always learning. By jotting down what you have learned on index cards, for example, you can use it to query your knowledge from time to time and thus check the learning success or identify where there are still gaps. The method also gives you more security later in the exam and creates little sense of achievement.

Looking for supporters

The exchange within a learning group can also reveal the respective learning success. Everyone benefits from the regular meetings (tips on the advantages and how to choose a study group can be found in THIS free PDF). A kind of internal competition with fellow students can even provide new momentum for exam preparation. Of course, the competition should not result in rivalry. But you can explain the material to each other and support each other in times of sagging. The exchange in the study group alone relieves exam stress. And if you notice how well he or she can explain something to others, you will also recognize your own progress.

Take breaks

Your brain is not endlessly receptive. On average, it takes a 15-minute break after 90 minutes at the latest. After a maximum of three units, you should stop for at least an hour. Otherwise you will be able to concentrate less and less, learn less and retain less. Regular breaks - as paradoxical as that sounds - are an effective way to prepare for exams. During this time, please do something completely different. Your brain will then be fit and receptive to the exam material again.

Find rewards

The exam phase is full of privation. All of your energy and time goes into learning. Friends and hobbies are usually neglected during exam preparation. And that sucks - on the fun, on the mood, on the nerves. Work against the effect by generating a sense of achievement in between and rewarding yourself for it. Visually check off the material you have learned on a list, this creates the feeling of getting closer to the goal step by step. Treat yourself to something good after a hard day of learning - an evening with friends, an episode of your favorite series or an hour of exercise. Such rewards give you a real motivational kick.

When is the best time to learn?

Everyone has different high-performance phases and slack times throughout the day. These depend on our respective chronotype ("owl" or "lark") and the biorhythm. Early risers ("larks") have a steeper performance curve in the morning, while night owls ("owls") only get going from 10 am. Your mind gushes out while the larks are already sipping their second coffee. So long hours of plowing through does not bring anything. You should learn especially when you are in top shape (see graphic):

How long should you study for an exam?

Most students begin preparation an average of two months before the exam. The length of the learning phase and the duration of exam preparation naturally depend on the type and scope of the material. Refueling and “learning last minute” are rarely a good idea. In order for what you have learned to solidify, you should start early and study continuously.

For the day itself, a learning period of four to a maximum of five hours has proven its worth. Breaks included. Then the brain's capacity for absorption is usually exhausted. Those who continue to learn hardly retain any of it.

How do you create a learning plan?

How you create a learning plan is highly individual. There is no general rule. However, these five steps have proven effective:

1. Get an overview: What has to be learned? By when? Which learning contents are really relevant for the exam?

2. View materials: Do you have all the documents you need to study? Are transcripts and scripts complete? Do you have any books or copies of them?

3. Set priorities: What do you start with? With the difficult or the easy content? What takes longer, what can be stored in short-term memory? Where do synergy effects arise? What builds on each other?

4. Use incentives: Learning environment, colleagues, times of day - what motivates you the most? Which learning techniques and methods work best and generate a quick sense of achievement?

5. Divide learning units: How many hours do you study a day? How long can you study with concentration? How do you divide the individual learning units (Pomodoro technique)? How many breaks do you need?

Exam preparation learning techniques

For the test, the exam or the exam, you have to get a lot of material in your head. But everyone learns differently. In the technical language one speaks of 4 different types of learners. In other words: Your access to knowledge is decided depending on which type of learner you belong to. Knowing your own learner type is therefore important and a decisive success criterion for everyone who wants to pass final exams or want to study something new (take our free learner type test here).

In addition, you can (and should) try out which memory and learning techniques (so-called Mnemonics) work best for you. Here is a selection of the most widely used learning methods and techniques:

  • Loci or route method

    If you want to remember as much as possible, a large apartment is an advantage with this technology. Because to do this, you take a tour of your four walls. To start with, select ten prominent points that you repeat over and over in the same order. This can be your TV, your bed or your favorite picture. In the next step, associate the terms or numbers that you want to memorize with the points from your home by coming up with unusual images. Do this step by step. If you want to remember the dates later, all you have to do is walk the route through your home in your mind's eye. This not only works with your own apartment, but also, for example, when commuting to work.

  • Substitute word method

    This technique is particularly helpful when learning foreign words or vocabulary, but names can also be memorized in this way. The new words that you want to remember are linked to an already familiar term that has a similar sound. For example, ask yourself what the word reminds you of. Take, for example, the English word “mice”, in German: “mice”. When you say it, it almost sounds like the German word "Mais". Now think of a living picture with mice and corn. Imagine a small group of gray mice nibbling on a huge cob of corn. Effect: The next time you ask yourself what the name of a mouse is in English, the picture comes to mind - and with it the English term. The more similar the substitute term sounds in your native language, the stronger the effect.

  • Learning history

    There are two methods here: The first one looks a bit weaker, but it is a real story. Your friend tells you, for example, how difficult it was to get the number sequence 290968, which was important to him, because that is his date of birth. The second variant is a classic memo technique: To do this, divide the sequence of digits into sections for which you memorize terms that are very present. You could memorize the number 3210072412 something like this: "3-2-1 Meins" is the Ebay slogan, 007 the code from James Bond, 2412 the Christmas date. Instead of 3210072412, remember: "Ebay, Bond, X-Mas". Or an absurd story about it: "James Bond buys the presents for Christmas on Ebay." The more absurd the story, the better the memory effect.

  • Numbers symbol system

    This technique is particularly suitable for memorizing sequences of numbers. But it is more complex than the others, because at the beginning each number from 0 to 9 is assigned a certain symbol. A swan is often used for the 2, a bar stool for the 3 or an hourglass for the 8, and so on. It is important that you imagine and memorize the picture in your mind's eye. If you have problems with a certain number-symbol combination, it is better to choose another symbol that you can more easily associate with the respective number. So if you want to save the number 239,628,467, first think of the symbols you have chosen for the individual digits. Now let your imagination run wild and think of a weird story with the symbols. The crazier, the more memorable. Your story could start with a swan (2) sitting on a bar stool (3). And so on.

Nutrition tips: True brain doping for exams

Of course, this is not about any drugs. Most of them use legal stimulants such as coffee, glucose or energy drinks. However, you should avoid these artificial energy suppliers. They only provide a short-term energy boost. What really helps is also completely legal brain doping - but of course and with a long-term effect:

  • drinking water

    Drink regularly and at least 1.5 to 2 liters of water a day. Especially on the day of the exam. Lack of fluids makes you tired and causes concentration problems and headaches. An alternative to water is unsweetened tea. Classic soft drinks (lemonades or light drinks) are unsuitable. They make the blood sugar level rise first, then fall rapidly. The result is a drop in performance. TIP: Put a bottle of water on your desk to prepare for the exam and for the exam and drink from it regularly. So you have a direct view of your fluid balance.

  • Use nerve food

    Nuts or other protein-containing products, such as buttermilk, are ideal as a snack between meals for an additional kick of energy. The smallest components of proteins, the amino acids, are already messenger substances or are converted into them. The messenger substances ensure that information gets quickly from one cell to the next. That makes you more efficient. Another good snack is the banana. Bananas contain magnesium and that strengthens the nerves. It also contains substances that stimulate the production of happiness hormones.

  • Eat whole grains for breakfast

    Complex and long-chain carbohydrates provide your brain with plenty of energy. This is what you need for the exhausting exam. The advantage of long-chain carbohydrates is that they are broken down over a longer period of time and thus continuously provide energy.

  • Light food

    If your exam does not take place in the morning, but later in the day, you still have enough time for lunch. Make sure, however, that this turns out to be easy and that you do not consume any heavy or fatty products. After eating fatty foods, you fall into the so-called schnitzel coma and your body puts all its energy into digestion instead of into your intellectual capacity. No smart exam preparation!

Exam preparation: checklist for the exam day

The time comes when the best exam preparation ends: the exam day. The time has come: Now it is true how successful your preparation and all your efforts were. But even now (and on the eve of the exam) there is still a lot you can do to improve your chances of success and start the exam more relaxed. These are our exam tips:

Provide resources

On the eve of the exam, check whether your pens are working and pack all the necessary aids and utensils in a bag: calculators, law books, etc. Also, think about drinks and an exam snack in case you need a boost of energy.

Clarify organizational matters

Find out where exactly the exam takes place, in which room, and the exact time. Also, think about the best way to get there. Find suitable train and bus connections in good time, as well as alternative connections in the event of a traffic jam or breakdowns.

Plan a time buffer

Plan enough time for the morning and the journey and set the alarm accordingly. Then you have even more peace and quiet and time for a good breakfast. Nothing is more stressful than rushing into the exam room shortly before you arrive. However, if you are there a few minutes early, there will still be plenty of time to come down and relax.

Maintain rituals

Do you always start your morning the same way? Then stick to it on the day of the exam. Rituals provide security and calm you down in stressful situations.

Avoid alarmists

There are people who manage to upset everyone with their behavior: alarmists or drama queens. For example, fellow students and fellow exams who bring their learning materials to the exam and ask: “Have you learned that too - especially this unknown formula ?!” You start to have doubts and become nervous. Fatal! Make sure you stay away from people who are only infecting you with their nervousness and concentrate solely on yourself and your good exam preparation.

Complete relaxation exercises

Just before the exam begins, you should really relax and take a deep breath. Correct breathing can instantly release tension. To do this, close your eyes for a moment and think of something positive. It also helps some people to grimace. This relaxes the facial muscles and lifts the mood.

4-6-8 method: breathe away the stress of the exam

The so-called 4-6-8 method or star breathing technique can resolve stress and a blackout within a few minutes. To do this, place your hand on your stomach and try to breathe there only through your nose - if possible, without lifting your chest. Then breathe in slowly and deeply, counting to four in your mind, then holding your breath and counting to six. Finally exhale slowly through your mouth again and count to eight. Repeat the whole thing at least five times. Works wonders!

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