3 Simple Steps to Instant Exam Success (And Having a Social Life at the Same Time)

Are you taking exams? Whatever the subject, there are only three things you need to do to succeed. I guarantee that if you do these three things, you’ll pass any exam with flying colors, and without losing out on your social life.

Throughout high school, I got a reputation as ‘top of the class’. For the first five years or so, it was warranted. I worked like a dog, I hardly had any friends, and my exam results were always close to 100%. However, soon enough, I reached what my teachers predicted: burnout. Studying suddenly lost its luster – I longed for parties over passes, and sleep over success. I couldn’t just fail though. Being a perfectionist, I would never allow myself to get a low grade, despite longing for life outside of the library. It took me a few months, but I soon found a method that kept those grades close to 100 and let me have a piece of the party pie at the same time. Here they are:

1. Take good notes

It seems simple, yes, it seems obvious – but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Write thorough notes by hand, not on the computer, and use your own words. Really listen to lectures, read the textbook, and summarize everything important. Think of it as an investment- all of this can be done during class time, when there’s nothing better to do anyway. You’ll reap the rewards later, when it comes to revision.

2. Write short answer questions

Every night, while the class is still fresh in your mind, read over your notes. Summarize each topic in the margin, with a question. For example, if there is a paragraph about the characteristics of an anteater, write this in the margin:

“What are the characteristics of an anteater?”

If you can add a number, always do. Five characteristics listed? OK, so write:

“What are the five characteristics of an anteater?”

Go through all your notes and ensure that every important topic is summarized with a question. Writing questions ensures that you understand your notes, and paves the way to step three – the easy way to exam success.

3. Practice the answers

When it comes to revision time, simply practice answering the questions in the margins. Instead of re-reading notes and making sense of it all, which will take up a lot of time, you can quickly find out what you already know. If you know the answer to a question, put a line through it. This way you can focus on what you don’t know, instead of reviewing information that’s already firmly cemented in your mind. Keep doing this until you’ve crossed out the majority of the questions.

If you are feeling extra industrious, do a few practice exams to check your knowledge. If you’re writing a more qualitative paper, focused around open questions, you’ll need to practice essay writing and critical thinking skills too. However, with questions covering all of your material, you should find your workload has been at least halved – leaving more time for you to enjoy your youth, without sacrificing your future career at the same time.

So, next time you’re in class, pick up that notepad and start writing those notes. Add questions to test your understanding. Say goodbye to last minute panic and cramming. This time, you’ll be well-prepared with an easy exam strategy – answer the questions until you know them like the back of your hand. Don’t forget to thank me when your grades come back.