Ask LH: How Can I Maximise Exam Performance?

Dear Lifehacker, Exams are just around the corner/consuming our every waking moment for us university students right now and I've been wondering if there are extra things I should be doing, study aside, that could get me that extra edge during exams. Are there ways I can mentally prepare? Are there ways I can physically prepare? I will be studying to my utmost and am looking for ways to essentially, get the most out of my mind/body. Thanks, Studying Hard

Picture by Jixar

Dear Studying Hard,

Long-time readers will know that I've been out of university longer than some university students have been alive, so I'd definitely welcome reader input here. But there are some obvious areas to start with:


The obvious bottom line: make sure you're getting plenty. We've run lots of sleep-related advice, including dealing with insomnia, using technology and setting a good daily routine. Don't make the mistake of pulling all-nighters. Your body and mind will hate you and your results will be worse/


This is not the time to be eating junk food. If you can afford it, then having takeaway food may give you more time to study, but choose healthier alternatives rather than overdosing on burgers and pizza. And save the drinking for when you've finished exams. Coffee has a major impact on your brain, so don't go nuts on that either.


Obviously you want to do well, but if you spend all your time studying and don't set aside any time to decompress, you'll end up with worst results. You need time away from each topic to let the information sink in. Also make sure you get some exercise; being crouched over a desk or a PC for hours on end is clearly bad news.

Kotaku's associate editor Tracey Lien offers a useful practical suggestion: make sure you schedule a definite cut-off time for studying each night, and then allow time to wind down before you go to bed. That can be watching TV or going on Facebook or baking a cake; just make sure you have a definite cool-down period.

Inform others

Obviously, exam period is not a time when you'll be going out, or helping friends organise a wedding, or any other non-essential task. Make sure friends and family are aware you're heading into an exam period.

The final pointer? Be an organised student throughout the year. If you've been slack and lazy, you'll be tense and worried ahead of exams, and you'll do even worse. Having an organised approach will reap dividends throughout.

What else do current or former students advise to survive and thrive during exams? Share your wisdom in the comments.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    It has been shown that exercise after studying helps to cement the neuronal connections made!!

    COFFEE! then take a brake and Coffee

      I think a dictionary could help in your case too, mate :P
      But I do find coffee invaluable. But as they said in the article, too much can you mess you up. The last thing you want is a caffeine addition, which will give you withdrawal symptoms mid exam (happened to me last semester)

    Actually I was taught by a teacher who had so many degrees he could spell dirty words after his name. ANYWAY. hit number one tip to me that took me from c to an A was to study no more that 20 mins. That doesnt mean stop it means swap topics. Ie Accounting - English - Maths - Science whatever. BUT SWAP.

      I like this, but kind of sucks for me that all four subjects this smemester are incredibly similar, 2 actually shared all the same tutes, one just had a practical part.

    Most exam permance can increase fron better preperation, but mainly from better knowledge on how to beat the exam. When at school they gave us no Exam preperation techniques(unlucky I guess). By the time I finished uni I learned all the good ones to enable me to pass them time and time again.
    The main one to remember is that you should apportion time to marks.

    100mins - 100 marks, apportion 20min to a 20 mark question, no more no less... you can always come back.
    Write a brief plan( on blank page) on how to explain and expand on your long english answers, so even if you dont finish, they can see where you were going...
    Also found that at uni more often, topics covered in assignment were not as heavily covered in exams, this may not be the case everywhere.

    My other tip when cramming and in need of extra alertness in a 3 hour exam... NODOZE... works a treat...

    Past Exams (if they're available), by far the biggest help for my exam periods. It gave me a good idea of what content to expect and the format of the exam.

      Absolutely!!! Spam the past exams! - the only subjects I did best in always had past papers, and they were absolutely invaluable for getting into the mindset of the examiners.

    Haha, just finished my HSC today!

    Work out a timetable, for when you study and when you rest.
    Within that, timetable what subject you study, and what liesure activity you're doing (gym, rest, going out).
    Then, specify what topic within each subject you study in each study section. Tick it off as its learnt, and if need be, catch up anything you can't finish in your allotted time.

    As Tom said, Past exams are a great help to let you practice writing style as well as course content, but make sure you check that the course hasn't changed significantly in exam format or content, as it can leave you with problems.

    Take care of your mental health as well as your body. Don't get distracted by arguing with your family/friends/boyfriend/girlfriend leading up to study (I know it's hard when you're already stressed out about exams and might be feeling grumpy as well). Also never tell yourself you can't do something, having confidence is key to doing well, so never talk yourself down.

    Agree with Colonel on ticking things off - really helps me see that I'm actually accomplishing something and know how my progress is!

    Find the time of day you are best focussed, I know I study best at 2am, so I sleep during the day and study night, but everyone's different. Finding the time where you feel most focussed and undistracted to study probably helps more - you're less likely to get bored too!

    I always remember the 5 P's

    Prior preparation prevents poor performance

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