Fool Proof Exam Prep: Acing Midterms, Exams, and Essays

1. Get out your highlighter and your notebook and go wild. Don’t just highlight everything, though. Read through your notes and highlight what YOU find important — don’t highlight things that are completely obvious, or that you’ve already committed to memory. Be smart and selective: it will cut down your study time, for sure.

2. Get some pretty pens. Yes. Colour is good. Not only are colour coded notes aesthetically pleasing, but they allow you to break your notes down into specific categories (something you may not have had time to do while you were racing to get everything down before the prof changes slides).

Look at all those colours... <3

Look at all those colours… <3

3. Get a fresh loose leaf sheet of paper. Rewrite the notes you highlighted — but try to be more concise than you were in your original notes. Although your shorthand may not make sense to everyone else, you know what it means, AND it saves you some valuable time.

4. Try your best to fit all your notes on just one or two sheets of paper. I know this isn’t easy, but the smaller and more concise your notes are, the less daunting it looks to study! Studying two pages is a lot easier than studying your entire notebook…

5. Once you’ve written all your notes, staple the pages together. Read over your new notes briefly, whenever you get a chance. You shouldn’t have to slave over them for too long, you’ve learned and memorized lots just by rewriting your notes!

Okay so these are actually essay outlines for one of my english courses, but it's the same idea!

Okay so these are actually essay outlines for one of my English courses, but same idea!

6. If it’s been a few days and there’s still a few things that are going right over your head, highlight or underline them. That way, when you’re on the bus, or waiting for class to start, you can whip out your notes and focus on those tricky concepts!


7. DON’T GO CRAM CRAZY! Read over your notes once or twice the night before your test, and once the morning of. Cramming may help you get a better mark, but you won’t remember anything a week later, and it will just stress you out.

8. Once you ace your test, file your notes away. Personally, I have a file folder with a space for each class (just to be hyper-organized…). Keeping your study sheets will come in handy when you’re prepping for a final exam, or even if you’re reviewing a concept that might help you in another class.

It might be time for a new folder?

Time for a new folder?


  • Resist the urge to type. Retyping notes may be much faster than handwriting them, but most of us can type so fast we don’t even have to think about it. Handwriting forces your brain to do some work, and you remember more.
  • Writing out notes can be super tedious, so listen to instrumental music of some sort to qualm your boredom.
  • Set goals. Aim to finish your re-written notes for a class in one or two sittings. If you don’t get them done after a week, you’re not very likely to go back and finish them.
  • Write out your notes at least a week before your test. I know this sounds impossible and completely crazy — nobody’s got time for that! But if you start studying in advance, your stress level will be cut in half, and you’ll actually have a long-term memory of everything you studied.

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