Tips and Tricks

Useful Tips for Your Next Exam That Will Get You Better Grades

Useful Tips for Your Next ExamImage Source: irishtimes

During my time at the university, I witnessed countless exams. First as a student (I wrote 54 different exams in total), then as a professor (I supervised and helped organize numerous exams there), and most recently during my work as a study advisor and coordinator of an exam board (I help students prepare for exams and monitor or optimize exam procedures).

So I know my way around exams. If I were to write down my theoretical knowledge about it, it would probably result in a separate book series. The only problem would then be: these books would be deadly boring. And: Theoretical knowledge doesn’t help at first. That’s why I’ve collected short practical tips for you in this article, which you can adopt without frills and use directly for your next exam.

Here we go:

Tip #1: Make a Checklist!

On the day of the exam, you have to keep other important facts in mind in addition to the content you have learned: When does the exam start? In which room does it take place? When do I have to leave? What tools do I need? And so forth. Create a checklist for these framework conditions and collect all relevant preparatory steps there. This way you don’t have to remember your exam organization, minimize the risk of forgetting something, and are more relaxed overall.


Tip #2: Be There Early!

If there’s one thing you don’t need before your exam, it’s extra stress. And stress is often caused by the occurrence of unforeseen events or is based on time constraints. You can easily switch off both factors by going to your exam early and being there well before the start. If your bus is late, a road is blocked or the search for the right lecture hall turns out to be more complicated than expected, you still don’t have to act because you have planned a time buffer.

Tip #3: Choose the Right Seat

When you arrive in the examination room, the next step is to choose your place. There are two general scenarios: either you can choose a seat or you are assigned a seat. With alternative number 1, you should choose your seat carefully. Too far forward you could sit uncomfortably close to your examiner; too far back visibility and acoustics are rather poor. If you take a seat at the edge, chances are you’ll have to get up and let fellow students pass by frequently. Hence the suggestion: Sit in one of the middle rows and avoid seats at the edges.

Tip #4: Set Yourself Up!

After you have found your place, you should set yourself up for the upcoming exam. Place pens, scrap paper, and other writing supplies on your desk. Keep all legal aids (such as calculators, legal texts, and so on) within easy reach. Chewing gum, a watch and something to drink should also be nearby. Keep your bag, jacket, and cell phone SWITCHED OFF in front of you or slightly to the side so you are not suspected of engaging in illegal activities during the exam.

Tip #5: Calm Your Mind!

The minutes in the lecture hall before the exam begins are usually the worst. During this time you are powerless. You can no longer be active and are at the mercy of the upcoming exam. You are forced to wait – and your mind uses this time to go completely crazy. The most unrealistic scenarios are played out. Uncertainty is spreading. But you mustn’t let it get that far. Therefore, just before the exam, calm your thoughts and collect yourself. Make it clear to yourself that you have prepared to the best of your knowledge and that you will accept the challenge. Remind yourself of your achievements and reflect on the strategy you have prepared for the exam.

Tip #6: Use Mental Images!

A particularly useful technique against exam stress is the use of so-called mental images. Mental images are consciously placed ideas of a desired future state. What this means for you: If you are nervous and full of negative thoughts, stop these patterns immediately – and instead paint a positive mental picture of the upcoming situation in your imagination. You don’t have to be overly gullible, just optimistic. Imagine yourself doing the exam and answering one question after another. Imagine how you will work on the tasks – in detail and as precisely as possible. Close your eyes and watch yourself write. This method works wonders, combating test anxiety and improving your confidence.

Tip #7: Don’t Start Right Away!

Even the longest waiting time before the exam comes to an end at some point. But after the exam has been initiated and the assignment sheets have been handed out, there is one thing you should not do: start immediately. After the handout, many students jump straight to task 1 and start writing. But this “strategy” is naive, stands in the way of an optimal exam result, and prevents you from your best possible performance. Why? Because your exam is not a self-explanatory to-do list that you simply have to work through. The different tasks must first be perceived, analyzed, and classified. 

Tip #8: Get an Overview!

The first step in completing your exam should be to get a solid overview of the entire exam. How many task sheets are there? Are they single-sided or double-sided? How many tasks and subtasks are there? Which topics are addressed? How do I answer? In written form? Bullet points? Graphically? Multiple choice? How many points are awarded? Tasks could be rather easy – which ones are rather difficult? 

Try the paper writer approach, don’t just blindly jump into the exam questions. Instead, analyze, research, and only then start working on the problems in front of you. Once you have the big picture, you go into detail.


With these tips, you’ll be easily able to prepare for the next upcoming exam. Use your time wisely and earn that top grade.