The All Time Top Ten Study Tips For Success In Tests And Exams
There comes a time in every student's life when those things
that you dread begin to loom on the horizon. Depending upon how
confident you are about them, your horizon will either be
measured in months, or maybe days. What am I talking about? Of
course I mean examinations. You may be about to go into mid term
mock examinations or you could be facing your final tests.
Whatever your situation and whenever you are going to be sat in
an examination room it is never too early to start getting ready
for those tests. Thorough preparation will provide you with a
strong foundation and will give you the confidence and belief
that you can do them and that you will get the grades you want.
But where do you start and which of the hundreds of study tips
and study skill ideas do you use?
I am often asked for my top ten tips when it comes to exam
success and over the years I have accumulated many ideas, some
of which are more effective than others. However if I were to
limit myself to just the top 10 that I felt were the most
powerful based on all of the work I have done in this field,
here are the ones that I think are the most powerful:
1. Find your own deep and compelling reason to successfully
learn your subject and pass your exams.
This really is the most important of the study tips I shall
share with you here because your success will be deeply rooted
in your motivation to learn. Many kids at school do not want to
be there and can't be bothered to try which is often why they
fail. It does not mean that they are unable to learn, it just
means that they have not applied themselves to the work at hand.
I know that this is often true because I have met literally
hundreds of people who "failed" at school by conventional
standards yet later in life made the decision to go back to
studying a subject because they wanted to do it. And because of
their motivation to succeed the did.
So what does that mean to you? Well understand that you are
driven by emotional needs and not necessarily logical ones. If
we were driven by logic, the world would be a much better place.
So you have to find a deep emotional reason for achieving
success as a student. And if you can dig deep and find that
reason then nothing will stop you because you will find a way.
2. Plan your time to include study, revision and social
commitments - a balance of having fun, taking breaks and
studying is vital.
Balance is very important to have a successful and rewarding
life and the same is true when you are a student. OK you could
spend every waking hour reading every book you could find and
learning everything you could and yes you would pass your exams
provided you had not burnt out. But it would not be fun, you
would have no friends and you would definitely be out of
Taking appropriate breaks and giving yourself little rewards
when you have finished an essay or learnt something new for your
exams is vital for your success. This is because it keeps you in
balance and gives you a degree of variety that keeps you fresh
and alert. Yes having a night out with your friends is good for
you - but only if it is as a reward for doing good work and is
as part of your overall plan.
3. Use multi-coloured Mind Maps for your notes.
My friend and mentor Tony Buzan developed the most powerful
thinking tool ever (and I am not exaggerating here) when he
invented the Mind Map. Imagine being able to get the key facts
from an entire book on a single page in a way that was not only
easy to remember but would stay in your memory for as long as
you wanted it.
Imagine having a thinking tool that allowed you to prepare
essays and assignments in a fraction of the time than you do at
the moment AND have them much better. Imagine being able to give
a powerful hour long presentation from a single page of
colourful notes that you put together in about 10 minutes.
Well all these are possible with the Mind Map. It is an amazing
tool that combines the power of association, the fact that we
have a very strong visual processing mechanism and that it
combines right and left brain processing.
I have seen what Mind Maps can do for students of all ages and
all abilities and if I had my way it would be a compulsory tool
taught to kids from a very young age.
4. Review your notes regularly to reinforce your new-found
This is another very simple but extremely powerful tip for you.
The experience of most students is that the learning that takes
place in the classroom is really an information gathering
exercise. When it comes to revising for their exams at the end
of the year they go to their notes and often can't remember ever
seeing that information before. They know they must have because
the notes are in their handwriting but they can't remember
anything! So the preparation for exams becomes a re-learning
This study tip is so simple and powerful yet most will not
bother. If at the end of every day, every week and every month
you quickly scanned what you have learnt, made a few key word
notes and then reviewed those ultra-condensed notes regularly,
you would be amazed at how much you could remember. This only
need take 10 minutes at the end of the day, half an hour at the
end of the week and maybe an hour or two at the end of the month.
Each time you review what you have learnt, even in condensed key
word format, it is more deeply engrained in your memory.
5. Swiftly skim through your text books and course material
before you read them in depth to give you an overview of your
Now there is not enough space here to explain why this tip is
important because it is a fundamental part of learning how to
read faster and absorb more information. Just trust me on this
one and before you start reading, skim through your book (no
more than 10 minutes) to get a feel for the contents.
As you read in greater depth later on, some of what you have got
from the quick scan will help put into context that information
and allow you to make the necessary links in your mind and
Doing this will often stop you from getting stuck at any point
because you will have a flavour of what is to come later in the
book and this added preview can help the understanding of
6. Learn how to remember lists of things by linking each item to
a location on a journey or route you are familiar with around
your town. You could even use your own home.
At some point, once you have understood your subject, you will
need to be able to memorise it. Many people think that just
understanding it is enough to learn it but unfortunately that is
not the case and so some memorization is necessary.
The most powerful way of doing this is to create a "filing
system" in your mind. One way to do this is to create a little
journey in your imagination (it can be a real place or you can
make it up). See for example the chair, the bed, the TV, the
door and the window in your bedroom. If you wanted to remember a
sequence of items you would link an outrageous (and therefore
memorable) picture to each location.
To recall the information, simply revisit the journey in your
own mind and "see" the information in the silly pictures you
7. Before you do any revision, warm up by doing some gentle
exercise to relieve any tension in your body and to get a rush
of healthy oxygen flowing to your brain.
There is a saying - "a healthy body, a healthy mind" - and
nowhere is this more true than when it comes to learning. Two
things happen when you physically warm up before studying. First
of all you get rid of any physical tension that will create
stress in the body and mind (not good for learning) and secondly
you will get a rush of oxygen to the brain which will help you
think more clearly (definitely good for learning).
8. Do past papers under thorough exam conditions as often as
possible to familiarise yourself with the format and the
pressures of working under exam conditions.
If you are training in a sport or practicing a musical
instrument, you will practice the plays or rehearse the pieces
for the big day. It would not make sense to spend months doing
push ups and then turn up on the big day and expect to play
soccer really well. It would also be unwise to only practice
scales on your instrument and then when the big performance
comes up expect a perfect recital.
So the same is true of exams. Fortunately these days you can get
hold of past exam papers from previous years. Do these, under
the same exam conditions, over and over again so that when the
big day comes you will have exam experience under your belt.
Doing this will give you more confidence, much better exam
techniqe and an insight into how the examiners for your subject
think. Remember practice makes perfect.
9. In an exam, make sure you read the question completely and
fully understand what the examiner wants before you allocate
your time and begin answering the questions.
This is commonsense but you would be amazed at how many people
do not do this. Take your time, plan what you are going to write
and then write it.
10. If you are faced with a mental block breathe deeply, relax
and ask yourself "If I did know the answer to this question,
what would it be?"
This might sound silly but if you do it with a positive
expectation that your very powerful subconcious will give you
the answer, then you will be amazed at what comes to mind. The
combination of the breathing, relaxation and expectation is the
key. Of course you have had to have done the preparation
beforehand because this won't work with information that you
have not previously learnt or covered in class.
So there you have my top 10 tips. Each are very powerful and
just doing one of them will make a big difference to your
success...but if you do all 10...Wow!
Good luck and please do let me know how these work for you. You
can get my free 7 day study skills and study tips min-course