top of page
  • Writer's pictureAmba Brown

27 Study Tips & Tricks To Ace Your Next Exam

When it comes to exam success - ultimately it depends on the second letter. How can YOU change your ways to improve your productivity and retain new information?

We've collected 27 study tips from a range of experts to help you improve your study habits and ace your next exam.

study tips

1. Use a pomodoro timer

(These can be found in apps or YouTube) - This will make the long study session seem less dreadful, will help cut procrastination, and will keep your mind from wondering about social media or anything else happening as you know you’ll have a break soon enough.

~ Adelaida Diaz-Roa, President, The Lontananza Foundation

2. Master the material

To ensure that students really understand the material they've studied, they should make sure they're familiar with the material in different forms. Many students study hard, but they only study their exact wording or phrasing of material. When that material is asked about or presented in a different way, they're thrown off. This usually means that rather than truly learning the material, they've simply honed their ability to regurgitate definitions.

Students need to have an understanding that is deep enough that they can recognize the material from different angles. A good way for students to practice this is to go through practice exams in their subject matter written by different teachers, study companies, online websites, etc. If they find that they're comfortable answering questions about a subject from multiple sources and multiple avenues, this is a better indication that they've really mastered the material.

3. Passion

The most important thing I have learned is that passion is what drives learning. If you don't care about something, you won't learn it very quickly. However, if you find something to be interesting, fun, or rewarding, you will learn it very quickly.

This is particularly true of languages, which can be challenging to learn. If you have a great reason for learning a new language, it won't be nearly as difficult as if you do it because you have to. In short, find a good reason for what you are studying, and keep that reason in your mind at all times. It will help you study more effectively.

~ David S. Wills, Educator,

4. Pay more attention in class than you do to the textbook

Perhaps the most important thing I learned in school, is that the professor or a teacher will probably discuss everything in class that will eventually be on the test. To get the best grades, I paid very careful attention in class and took detailed class notes. It is also more interesting to learn in person than from a dry textbook. Eventually, I even stopped buying textbooks all together (except for math and science). Reviewing class notes was all I needed to study for almost any test. Of course, it helps to keep your notes organized and clear.

~ Viktoria Altman, Homeschool Mom,

5. Teach others

When possible try to teach a classmate / friend / family member what you’re learning. Teaching content is the #1 way to retain it. It can also help your classmates out!

~ Adelaida Diaz-Roa, President, The Lontananza Foundation

6. Focus on what you don't know

Ignore what you know and focus on what you don't know. Studying information you already know is a waste of time, especially in classes with a lot of content. It can be a confidence boost to focus on what you know, but it is false confidence if you don't spend time on the other content. When I was a student going through my notes before an exam, I found it helpful to highlight what I knew. Then I would ignore the highlighted material the next time through and only focus my study time on the information I didn't know and needed to study.

This tip may seem obvious, but I have students tell me all the time that they tend to go over the same content repeatedly because it makes them feel better, like they know more, going into an exam. Many don't even realize they are doing it until I bring it up.

~ Julie Stamm, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor,

7. Create a summary for each subtopic of things that you don't remember This is vital. This will allow you to utilize a principle of effective learning called active recall. By essentially memorizing obscure things that you can't remember, you are able to draw it for critical moments such as your exams. It's by far the most efficient way of moving information from the short term to long term memory. If you utilize just these three things, you will undoubtedly have a fantastic study routine.

~ Patrick Dhital, CEO, Honey Skin

8. Use it three times

Use it three times and it's yours. Studies show if you engage multiple times with the material (vocabulary, math formulas, history facts) then you will retain it better. When people write it down, speak it aloud, and come up with a mnemonic device for learning it, they are three times as likely to remember it.

~ Emily Morrison, High School English Teacher, Mother, and Grad Instructor,

9. Build Social Breaks into Your Study Schedule

It may sound counterintuitive, but taking more breaks is actually linked to more productivity and higher test scores. A powerful study tool you can utilize is a “social break.” Spending five to ten minutes calling a friend or chatting with another student over a cup of coffee can actually boost your mood and performance as well as replenish your energy and make you more productive.

There is no rule on how long this break needs to be, the social break just needs to be enough stimulation to get your mind off whatever you are working on at the moment. Surprisingly, this study tool works for both introverts as well as extroverts, so don’t feel guilty next time you catch up with a friend or make small talk with a classmate. ~ Kristine Thorndyke, Founder, Test Prep Nerds

10. Study according to your learning style

If you are a social learner, studying in a group or by reading/repeating the things you are studying out loud will be most effective.

If you are a visual learner, then drawing, doodling, making charts and graphs, or otherwise incorporating visuals into your study efforts will yield the highest results.

Physical or kinesthetic learners should study while allowing their bodies to move. So playing with a fidget spinner or a stress ball, or bouncing on a yoga ball while studying will help. Also, using tools such as flashcards or taking frequent breaks will help the physical learner.

The fact of the matter is, not everybody learns the same way, so not everybody should study in the same way. Figure out your best learning style(s) and play to your strengths.

~ Charlene Hess, Teacher/Homeschool Mom,

11. Break it down into small targets

Students can become demotivated when looking at completing a full qualification and it is always better to break things down into manageable sections.

Setting small targets on a weekly basis will ensure your progression and all these small checkpoints will soon build up to achieving the qualification.

~ David Lee, Managing Director at CPD Online College

12. Designate a study area

This should be a spot that is specifically used for studying and homework. This isn't the bed or the floor, it is a desk or spot at the kitchen table where they know they can go to study. This place should be stocked with all the necessary study tools, so that the student doesn't have to get up to retrieve something for studying.

~ Jennifer Hovey, Owner, Huntington Learning Center

13. Study in an environment similar to your test-taking environment

This will help your brain connect what you studied to the environment. Example: Chewing gum or eating a piece of hard candy while you study connects the two in your brain. When you take the test, use the same candy or gum to jump-start your memory.

~ Salina Shelton, MA, LPC-AT, ATR-BC, Licensed Professional Counselor,

14. Make a study date

When you have a friend helping you study and you set a specific time to do it, you're more likely to stick to it. People break plans with themselves all the time -- it's called procrastination. When you make plans to study with someone else, you're more likely to to keep them.

~ Emily Morrison, High School English Teacher, Mother, and Grad Instructor,

15. Create a to-do list

Get in the habit of creating a to-do list daily. List out the activities that need to be done in the order they are due, so things that are due soon, can be moved to high priority.

~ Jennifer Hovey, Owner, Huntington Learning Center

16. Keep in mind why you are studying

You are learning for your future. You are not doing this for your parents or your teachers. This is a selfish activity, so enjoy it! Indulge yourself and relish the opportunity and permission to be greedy. Make yourself the best you can be and fill that brain with knowledge and skills.

~ Dr. Christine Jax, Chief Academic Officer, USATestprep, LLC

17. Reattempt questions from your tutorials As the old saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’. Practising, however, doesn't have to involve redoing pages of practice papers. Instead, the ideal option is to redo questions from your tutorial. Redoing those questions brings about numerous benefits. For starters, it helps to reinforce basic concepts. Although you might have previously attempted the questions, you are unlikely to have mastered all the steps and concepts.

Furthermore, missing links in your thought process may exist. As such, you forget the next steps in the solution and may require some prompting to proceed. Thus, redoing the same questions helps to pinpoint gaps in your problem-solving capabilities and help to effectively consolidate your understanding.

~ Jeremy Tan, Founder and Instructor, Port Education

18. Focus on a single task Despite our brains’ impressive capabilities, they're unable to handle everything at once. There are far too many things going on in our sensory environment for us to effectively digest every single thing.

Therefore, to be productive, we need to channel our attention to a single task a time. This means that you should refrain from multi-tasking. While multi-tasking seems like an efficient way to get things done, it impairs our ability to complete our work efficiently.

When you switch between tasks, your brain takes time to shift its focus. In addition, it'll take you several minutes to get back into the groove of studying. Thus, it's imperative that you minimize distractions and focus on the task at hand.

~ Charlotte Ang, Digital Marketing Instructor and Co-founder of Traffic Bees

19. Mnemonics work!

Create acronyms with lists, or rhymes with facts. Using creativity to help you retain the information will create a stronger connection to the information. Making it easier to recall.

~ Salina Shelton, MA, LPC-AT, ATR-BC, Licensed Professional Counselor,

20. Ask questions

Make sure you understand what you learned before you leave the classroom. If you are uncomfortable raising your hand in class and asking a question publicly, email your teacher! Or ask a friend in the class. Often your peers are your best resource.

~ Shelby Maguire MA, Ed, Veteran AZ High School Science Teacher

21. Commit to a routine

Committing to a routine keeps every member of the household on track and has built in expectations for the student.

~ Jennifer Hovey, Owner, Huntington Learning Center

22. Break information into chunks

Our brain holds 3-5 bits of information in short term memory. Practice memorizing chunks of information to improve recall.

~ Salina Shelton, MA, LPC-AT, ATR-BC, Licensed Professional Counselor,

23. Gratitude

Own it! Someone can take away your car, your house, etc., but no one can take away your education. It is your strongest asset and we are lucky to live in a place where education is free and available to all. Not everyone has that privilege.

~ Shelby Maguire MA, Ed, Veteran AZ High School Science Teacher

24. Get organized

Provide a distinct, comfortable, well-lit, quiet, and non-distracting place for the homework to be completed. Ensure you have everything needed to do the homework, from pens and paper, to a laptop and books, and be sure to get special project materials in advance, to avoid the excuse of I don't have what I need.

~ Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author, regular expert child psychologist on The Doctors, CBS TV, and co-star on Sex Box, WE tv.,

25. Combat Anxiety

If you've ever found yourself reading a paragraph over and over without retaining the information, anxiety may be getting the best of you. It's difficult for students to learn when there's unmanaged anxiety about your to-do-list. If anxiety is a roadblock, first practice grounding exercises and deep breathing to become more mindfully in the present as you're studying.

Some examples of grounding are smelling aromatherapy, feeling both feet firmly planted on the ground and your body against the chair, or splashing your face with water. Students can also keep a journal or notepad next to them to jot down items they're worried about for the next day. Visually putting those anxious thoughts onto a physical paper can help contain the worry so you can focus completely on the present.

~ Maryann W. Mathai, LPCC, LMHC, LPC, NCC, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor,

26. Pace yourself

Cramming does not work. Study in small sessions for about a week before an assessment. This gives you time to ask questions that come up while studying and keeps you from becoming overwhelmed. Most courses offer a study guide for tests. Study guides help students in two ways.

First, finding the answers to the study guide questions forces students to re-read notes and reinforces what was learned (this is studying!). Second, it gives students a good idea of what they know and don't know, therefore focusing future studying. Third, it puts all the information in one place for them. If a study guide is not provided by the teacher - make one yourself (this is a study technique)!

~ Shelby Maguire MA, Ed, Veteran AZ High School Science Teacher

27. Ask your teacher what to concentrate on

This a totally underutilized study tip! Teachers know the material better than anyone. They also know what you struggle with as a learner better than anyone. Before a big test, check in with them and ask them, What do you think I need to study most?

Teachers love it when kids take the initiative and show us they really want to do well.

~ Emily Morrison, High School English Teacher, Mother, and Grad Instructor,

Happy studying and good luck on the test!


bottom of page