Test prep and study strategies to channel your inner exam-slayer

An overhead shot of students studying at tables inside of Stan Grad.
An overhead shot of students studying at tables inside of Stan Grad.

It's the end of the semester, and the only thing standing between you and your hard-earned break is... exams. They can be challenging, but we have the tools you need to come out on top.

Feeling confident and prepared to take an exam is key to success. Here's our advice for getting your head in the game, plus some strategies to help you tackle all kinds of questions (even the dreaded true or false).

Prep like a pro

First things first: find out what you're in for. Double-check exam details with your instructor, like date and time, format, length, topics and permitted materials.

When the exam is entered into your calendar, make a study plan to avoid cramming just a few days ahead. Use your courses' learning objectives to create a study guide and summarize important content. Map out topics from highest to lowest priority, beginning with the top of the list.

If you study well with friends, consider using space on campus for your group. You can book study spaces through the Reg Erhardt Library website.

Fend off your pre-exam jitters

In anticipation of your exam, prep your body and brain for peak performance.

Focus on sleeping well the night before. We're talking about no screens in the hour before bedtime, no caffeine after dark and setting up your space for maximum relaxation.

If you have a hard time getting your brain to shut down before bed, try lowering your stress using the headversity app or with a mindfulness exercise.

When you wake up, turn any stress you encounter into confidence. People say mindset matters - and they're onto something. Think of the exam as an opportunity to show yourself how much you've learned.

Crush the exam

This is the moment you've been waiting for.

Take a deep breath.

When you've listened to the exam instructions and are ready to begin, scan the whole exam to feel out the pace you'll need to finish strong. If you have space, jot down any necessary memory devices or formulas.

  • Study and prepare as you would any other exam.
  • If you're writing your exam from home, choose a place to write that is comfortable, familiar and distraction-free. This can reduce stress and test-related anxiety and improve your ability to focus. Put up a 'do not disturb' sign and inform family and roommates you'll be writing an exam.
  • Make sure you have a strong internet connection. Ask your family and roommates to limit their streaming or gaming during your exam, as this can impact your connection speeds.
  • Ask your instructor for details about the exam and read the instructions. Know how to set up your space and if there are specific rules for the exam.
  • Test your technology beforehand, and if you encounter technical difficulties, inform your instructor as soon as possible.

💻 Learn more about online proctoring software and exams

  • Organize your materials, but don't rely on books, notes or cheat sheets during your exam. Preparing in advance for an open book exam is as important as you would be for any other exam.
  • Time on these exams can be limited; looking through notes or a book to answer questions during a test can take a lot of time.

  • Produce your own answer first and look for it in the list.
  • Use a process of elimination to choose the best answer.
  • Change your answer only when you're sure.
  • Break down the answers. Read the question with the first answer while covering the rest of the answers. Is the statement true or false? Move to the next option and repeat.

  • If any part of the question is false, the answer is false.
  • True means always true, 100% of the time - qualifiers such as "always", "all" and "never", usually indicate a false statement.
  • Your first response is usually your best.

  • Start with the easiest question and make sure you understand it - if you don't, ask.
  • Before you start writing, make a quick outline - this will keep you on track and capture your ideas up front.
  • Use your most important points first - and get to the point.
  • Pace yourself based on how much each question is worth and the time allotted.
  • If you get stuck, move on - another question may trigger the answer.
  • Write something for each question - point form is better than nothing.
  • Check that you've answered all parts of the question, then review your answers for grammar and clarity.

After the exam

When you leave the exam, relax knowing you did your best. Set aside time to unwind or plan a restorative activity, like spending time with friends, taking a walk or settling down with your Netflix comfort show.

When you're ready, reflect. What went well? Is there anything you'll do differently next time?

If you're going to be here in the Spring/Summer 2024 semester, we'll see you in May! If these exams were the last thing standing between you and your program completion, congratulations!

Don’t forget mental health

Maintaining positive mental health and well-being is a key factor in your success as a student, in your career and in life. There's no magic formula, but there are ways every student can thrive at SAIT - plus resources and services to support you whether you're studying on or off-campus.

You can also stop by the Let's Talk Exams booth in the Aldred Centre from 11 am to noon on Monday, April 8. SAIT counsellors will be there with advice to support your success and wellbeing.

a view of the moutains and stream in between

Oki, Âba wathtech, Danit'ada, Tawnshi, Hello.

SAIT is located on the traditional territories of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) and the people of Treaty 7 which includes the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina and the Îyârhe Nakoda of Bearspaw, Chiniki and Goodstoney.

We are situated in an area the Blackfoot tribes traditionally called Moh’kinsstis, where the Bow River meets the Elbow River. We now call it the city of Calgary, which is also home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.