Knowing how to study for high school tests is not the same as knowing how to prepare for college exams.

College exams are a big deal.

Not that high school tests aren’t, but how you prepare for college exams is undoubtedly more advanced.

They’ll probably count for a large portion of your final grade.

Plus, you’ll have midterm and final exams in each class.

For full-time students taking 15 credits, this could mean having 10 major exams within just three months.

That’s a lot of material to learn!

In college, exams can be multiple choice or essay.

You’ll also find that your college professors each may use different grading criteria.

Some professors can be brutal in their grading, while others are lax and may even offer extra credit.

Additionally, you could find that some exams are graded on a curve so that your scores will be relative to the class rather than a strict percentage.

No matter what subject you’re studying or how your teacher grades, college students need strong study skills to succeed.

Find out the top seven ways to prepare for exams so you can get an excellent GPA.

7 Things You Can Do to Prepare for College Exams

1.Start Studying Early

Procrastination won’t get you anywhere, and waiting until the last minute to study will leave you unprepared for college exams.

Researchers have found that studying a little bit at a time is an effective way to learn.

It’s more than a good habit.

It’s scientifically proven to strengthen neural connections.

The process uses something called the spacing effect.

It involves a cycle of learning, forgetting a little bit, and then re-learning the material.

Students who use this method have better final test results.

To achieve results, you’ll need to start studying early.

If your test is a month away, start by studying for it once per week.

When your exam is the following week, plan two study sessions about one to two days apart.7 things you can do to prepare for college exams

Keep in mind that with a semester of classes and ongoing homework assignments, you’ll need to put together a study schedule to make sure you hit your goals.

Study time should be a part of your daily routine.

To stay on track, use a calendar or planning tool.

Use your syllabuses to plot out your big exams and project deadlines.

Then you can back-in your study blocks to make sure you have adequate time for everything.

Not only can it help your grades to start early, but it can also help lower your stress.

When you have a study plan, you set yourself reasonable daily goals.

This is a significant shift from being caught unprepared when exams are looming.

It’s also a good idea to build into your schedule some flex time.

If your schedule is too tight, you can quickly fall behind from unexpected things like the flu or car trouble.

By having a built-in buffer, you won’t fall behind on studying, even if a test or topic catches you off guard.

2. Prioritize What’s Most Important

It’s only natural to want to start at the beginning.

However, taking the time to prioritize can help you achieve better grades.

For example, if there’s a topic in your Economics class that you know is going to carry a lot of marks on your exam, give that more of your attention.

Similarly, if you know the Middle Ages is only going to be a small part of your History exam, it shouldn’t be the first thing you study.

By prioritizing what you’re studying, you’ll be able to give the most time to the most critical material.

If you left it to the end, there’s the risk that you could run out of time.

Plus, by studying the essential material early, you’ll be able to maximize the number of times you can review it.

During each study session, you’ll be further reinforcing the material, helping you to have a thorough understanding of it.

Many students will find their class notes will become an essential guide in determining what’s critical to study.

While textbook readings and auxiliary research is a lot to keep up with, the information teachers choose to spend class time on is likely crucial enough to be on your exam.

Keep in mind that the most helpful study tools are not verbatim class notes that overwhelm with unnecessary trivia.

Instead, class notes that are comprehensive and focused will help you maximize your study time without diluting your efforts.

For access to helpful class notes, an increasing number of students are accessing shared documents on OneClass.

Paid note-takers upload millions of high-quality lecture notes which provide classmates with on-demand access to resources that can be most helpful.

Whether you missed a class, are struggling with the material, or want to use high-quality class notes to study, OneClass can help.

7 things you can do to prepare for college exams

3. Join a Study Group

When preparing for your exams, you don’t have to go it alone.

A strong study group of about four to six classmates can help you stay on track with your studies.

The most helpful study groups meet weekly throughout the semester.

However, it’s also helpful to join a study group during the lead up to our exams.

Typically, study groups meet once per week to review course material, discuss concepts, and ask each other questions.

By working together, the collective intelligence helps all group members get ahead.

Form a study group by seeking out a group of classmates who would each have something valuable to contribute.

Classmates typically make better study partners than your friends because you don’t want your study sessions to become social time.

Study groups also present an opportunity for each member to take a turn leading the discussion or teaching.

The process of explaining things is a proven way to reinforce one’s knowledge. Learning rates can improve by as much as three times.

Rather than merely passively thinking about the material, explaining it activates it within your brain.

4. Take Practice Tests

Practice exams have two key benefits to the learning process.

First, it’s a helpful way to figure out what you know and what you don’t know.

Through this, you’ll gain insight into which concepts you need to devote more study time to and which concepts you already understand.

Secondly, practice tests are, by their nature, helpful learning tools.

Scientific American said, “Retrieval practice does not use testing as a tool of assessment. Rather it treats tests as occasions for learning.”

The article went on to explain, “Every time a student calls up knowledge from memory, that memory changes. Its mental representation becomes stronger, more stable, and more accessible.”

5. Pace Yourself

During midterms and finals, you’ll have several vital exams in a single week.

You could even have several exams on the same day.

Like a marathon runner, be sure to pace yourself.

Following your study schedule will help, but you’ll also need to be sure you’re taking care of yourself by eating well and getting enough sleep.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’ll start to see cognitive decline, impaired memory, slower thought processes, and the lack of ability to focus.

This is not the best mental landscape for college success.

Remember, college classes are a marathon, not a sprint.

6. Avoid Social Media

When you’re facing crunch time before college exams, social media can be an unnecessary distraction.

You may need Facebook Messenger to stay in the loop with your classmates via group chats.

However, some students avoid or even delete social media apps during exam prep.

“Deleting Snapchat was a great decision for me because I spent a lot of time consumed in the app,” said one California student.

“I feel like now since Snapchat notifications aren’t constantly pinging my phone, I can hone in on the work I am doing.”

If you’re not ready to go cold turkey, you can still turn off notifications so that you’re not disturbed during your study sessions.

A social media diet can also help you stay focused, limiting yourself to only checking your apps once per day.

7. Use Prepared Study Guides to Save Time

With the right study tools, you could start your study session a few steps ahead of your classmates.

This can help you to be more efficient with your study time so that you can learn more and get better grades.

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Consider the difference between these two scenarios.

Most students start preparing for midterms or final exams by gathering, sorting, and organizing their information.

It takes a large block of time to sort through weeks of class material and select the relevant information to study.

On the other hand, consider how a student who downloads a pre-prepared study guide would be able to jump right into studying without having to do the legwork beforehand.

This can save hours, ultimately giving these students more time to focus on learning.

The paid note-takers who upload lecture notes to OneClass also share their exam study guides. OneClass also share their exam study guides.

Rather than generic resources, these documents are specific to your class, your school, and your professor.

Using shared documents to study more efficiently can have a profound impact on grades.

Among the millions of OneClass users, more than 90 percent have improved by at least one letter grade.


These are my best tips to help you prepare for college exams.

Did you find them helpful?

Are you going to try any of them out yourself to prepare for college exams?

Leave a comment and let me know!

Jack Tai is the CEO and Co-founder of OneClassOneClass. Learn more about how this online tool is helping students prepare for exams with high-quality study guides and his methods show that students improve by one letter grade or more!