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Helping Students Prepare for Exams

As you help your students prepare for final exams, consider the following suggestions from the Academic Center for Excellence at the University of Illinois, Chicago:

  1. Paraphrase as you review your notes, textbooks, etc. Paraphrasing requires you to use your own terminology, which helps you make connections between what you know and what you are learning. In other words, talk to yourself: "The author is saying ___."
  2. In addition to paraphrasing, relate ideas to one another. For example, look for similarities and differences when learning various theories versus simply memorizing.
  3. Use strategies that help you focus your attention such as highlighting a phrase at the beginning and/or end of a paragraph, and/or writing a brief note in the margin.
  4. Review charts, diagrams, and outlines.
  5. Study with another student or group. Rather than reciting information, explain what you've learned to your study partners.
  6. Pay close attention to study guides and topics mentioned during review sessions.
  7. Develop review tools such as summary sheets, charts, or diagrams. When developing these tools, try to condense and paraphrase, versus merely recopying your notes.
  8. Use flashcards sparingly. They can be useful for memorizing isolated facts, but they are not helpful for deep learning.
  9. Avoid marathon study sessions. Studying for short, intense time periods with greater concentration is better than long periods when you are tired and not connecting well with the material.
  10. Use mnemonic devices for making large lists or facts easier to recall. Mnemonic devices are short rhymes, phrases (i.e., "stop, drop, and roll"), words (e.g., H-O-M-E-S; Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior) or abbreviations.
  11. If practice exams are available, use them as a model and write your own additional exam questions, and/or use questions at the end of a chapter. If you struggle with timed tests, try to take at least one timed practice exam.


"Studying for Exams." Academic Center for Excellence. U. of Illinois, 2010. Web. 19 May 2010.

"Studying." Study Guides and Strategies, 1996. Web. 19 May 2010.

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