Campus News
a woman sits at a school desk and writes an exam

High school students across the region will be writing final exams in the coming weeks and they are likely searching for helpful study tips and strategies to best prepare.

The experts at Lethbridge College – Jayne Werry, Learning Café academic strategist and Corrine Janzen, intake coordinator, Wellness Services – are here to help with their top five suggested areas of focus.

  1. Studying: According to Werry, the first and most important tip is to start studying well in advance of your exam. “You need to take your time if you’re going to study effectively,” she says. “Create flash cards or write yourself some sample questions on topics you think might be on the exam.” She also suggests reviewing the material every day in the weeks leading up to the exam. Once you feel confident, try teaching it to someone who isn’t in your class to test your understanding, says Werry.
  2. Memorization: “Our short-term memory holds very little for a very short period of time,” Werry says. “In order to move a memory into long-term storage, we need to practise it. When you study, you rehearse the information you want to remember. The principle of spaced repetition says that every time you remember something, your ability to remember it is strengthened and it will take longer for you to forget it.” Werry suggests reviewing study material every day until you’re sure you know it, then review every other day until your exam. 
  3. Time-management: “Life is busy,” says Werry. “Plan your time so you can fit in all the things you need to do. This might mean making a daily schedule and blocking off time for things like school, work, sports and studying.” She also recommends choosing a study time that suits you. For example, don’t plan to study late at night if you’re not at your best in the evening. Werry says the Pomodoro method suggests taking 25 minutes to work on your task, then taking a five-minute break. You can repeat this cycle four times in a two-hour block, then take a longer break. Werry says breaks should be spent doing something completely different than studying. “Don’t take a break to scroll your phone,” she says. “Go for a walk around the block or play your favourite song and take a dance break. Don’t forget to plan time for fun. Your social battery is important, too.”
  4. Exam writing: “Be prepared,” says Werry. “This means studying, of course, but it also means eating well, getting enough sleep and arriving to the exam on time. If you need a pencil for your exam, bring a pencil. If you need a calculator, be sure you have one.” Werry also suggests answering the easy questions first. “There is no prize for answering the questions in the order they are presented,” she says. “A later question might provide the answer you were looking for in an earlier one.” Werry says multiple choice questions can sometimes be figured out by looking at what works linguistically. “Find the answer that fits the sentence structure, and if you still don’t know – guess – there’s a chance you’ll get it right,” she says. Werry also points out that short-answer questions don’t always require a nicely written paragraph, and that bullet points might be enough to show what you know. “If you still have nothing, take a deep breath, stretch and move on to a different question,” she says. “Come back later and see if something has jogged your memory. Lastly, don’t forget to read over everything before you hand in your exam.” 
  5. Health and wellness: Self-care – physical wellness, emotional wellness, mental wellness and spiritual wellbeing – is very important, Janzen says. “Creating a regular routine and not watching a screen 60 minutes before you want to sleep, can help you get the rest you need,” she says. “Eating well, at least 80 per cent of the time, and moving your body also helps with physical wellness.” Janzen also suggests acknowledging your emotions, including anxiety about an upcoming test, and talking with your support people, listening to music, spending time with friends and family and doing things that make you feel good to support your emotional and mental wellness. She says there are also techniques to help you manage stress or anxiety when writing an exam. “Grounding activities, like focusing on your senses – what you see, hear, smell – can help you in the moment,” Janzen says. “You can also use your breath. Taking a few deep belly or diaphragmatic breaths can help you calm down and help you remember the material you studied, or problem-solve better.”