How to Ace Your College Exams

Ace College Exams

Is it just me or has the spring semester been flying by? I have a theory that the older your get, the quicker the time goes. I feel like my junior year has been going so quickly and I sorta wish time would slow the heck down! I can’t believe it’s almost time for midterms. I hate taking exams, but I think I’ve gotten pretty good at managing my study time and figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t. I know that not everyone’s study habits are the same so these tips won’t work for everyone, but I do enjoy sharing the things I’ve learned over my past few years as a college student with all of you!

Go to class and do the work.

This one should be a given, but it’s amazing how many college students skip class and don’t do ANY work and then complain about how they are failing (and even blame the professor?!) I’ll never ever understand it. Just go to class, people. That’s step 1.

Prepare in advance.

I hate doing this as much as the next guy, but it seriously helps SO MUCH when you study a little bit at a time. For example, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about my neuroscience class here on the blog. For that class, I’ve made sure to read the textbook chapters before my professor even lectures on them so I have a good grasp of concepts (or I’ve at least HEARD the terms before). It helped me so much! Ditto with making flashcards/study guides. I used to wait until the last minute to make flashcards or study guides and then I’d waste the whole evening MAKING the study tools and never really getting to use them. Now, I make my flashcards as I’m reading the chapter and it helps me a lot when I’m hitting the home stretch right before an exam.

If you can’t prepare in advance, choose wisely.

Not all of us are model students (myself included, 90% of the time) so it’s hard to make sure you’re studying every day up until it’s exam time. If you have a solid week before your midterm/exam, be sure to outline what you believe are the most important things to study and focus a lot of your energy on those things.

How do I know what’s important, though? First, I would look over any study guides or tips your professor has given you either on Blackboard or in class. From those study guides, I would figure out what you’ve been having the most trouble with and zero in on that. If your professor doesn’t give study guides, I would try to focus on the things they talked the most about in class and consider that the “meat” of the exam.

Use a study tool.

Whether that’s a homemade study guide, index cards, neatly written notes, or Quizlet is up to you! Find a study tool that works best for you and utilize it to it’s fullest potential. I just started using index cards this semester when previously I was a devoted study guide maker. I think the most important part of studying is not WHAT you study it’s HOW you study. Spend some time figuring out what method works the best for you and get to it! Another thing that I’ve recently been loving is COLORING to help you study! I bought a neuroscience coloring book and it has been so much fun and also really helpful.

Ace College Exams

Form study groups.

Sometimes it’s nice to get a group of classmates together to study. I wouldn’t recommend this method as your only way of studying as it could be distracting, but I think there is definitely some value to studying with a group of your peers. You can bounce ideas off of each other, talk through some topics, and I also believe it’s beneficial to learn how other students study. It took me a really long time to figure out what study method worked best for me!

Stay organized.

Keep your notes organized and your index cards all in one place. I like to write out “study plans” in my planner. It helps me narrow down what I need to do and when. I also write out what chapters I should be reading so I don’t forget!

Don’t forget about Google.

Google can be your best friend when studying for exams. If there’s something you don’t understand (especially when it involves any sort of science-y thing) chances are there’s a great YouTube video explaining the process a different way using pretty visuals! There are so many different types of learners, it’s hard for professors to cater to each and every one of us (even though they usually try!) Google can be a great way to find that missing piece of the puzzle that will help you go from partially understanding to fully understanding and applying the concepts!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Seriously. After working with a professor last semester as a Teacher’s Assistant, I learned that professors really just want to help you. They don’t like failing students and if you come to them for help they will realize that you are trying and that’s BIG. It’s amazing how many students are so afraid of speaking to their professors that they wait until the very last minute and by then it’s too late. Don’t be that student! Be brave enough to admit that you’re struggling and ask for help. You got this!

  • Thank you for sharing your tips! :) I definitely agree that preparing in advance is super helpful even though it’s not always that easy to actually do it. Sometimes I’m pretty good at it but other times I just can’t be bothered so reading this was a reminder to me not to wait till last minute x

    Sara /

    • Thank you so much Sara! It is really hard to always be on top of your work. Good luck on your exams xx

  • Kristine Circenis

    I also can’t believe how quickly this semester seems to have flown by (Holy March, already?)! I love using flashcards to study!

    • RIGHT?! I cannot believe it’s actually March. I bought like, 10 packs of flashcards when this semester started. They’re so great! I also color code them by chapter. Is that weird?

  • I’m a firm believer in asking for help when it comes to preparing for exams! In the past when I’ve gone to my teacher’s office hours, I’ve done a lot better on the assignments or the exams. It helps to discuss the material face to face and get your questions answered!


    • YES I totally agree! Thanks for the comment, Cristina!

  • this is so helpful. I love to work in groups when it comes to studying for exams, it is a lot more helpful than most people think! x, kenz

    • It helped me so much when I was studying for my last big exam! Thanks Kenzie!

  • Chardline

    I definitely have to share this with my Alma Mater ! I’m always attending their student events and I can post this on their message boards!

    • That would be awesome, Chardline! I’m so glad you enjoyed this post :)

  • What great advice! I usually studied with a group when I was in school. Getting my study group together was one of the first things I did at the beginning of a new semester to make sure I would be successful! Accountability is huge when it comes to studying and sticking to a schedule!

  • Sunny Morgan

    Awesome advice! Quizlet is my bible, and Crash Course (John Green omg) saves my life! Thanks for the A+ advice. (:

    Sunny |

  • Molly O’Connor

    Great advice! I could probably pay better attention in class and that would help hahah

  • Ashley

    This is fantastic advice!! I didn’t get some of these down until the very end of college!

    xo Ashley

  • Great advice! I was so bad about attending class if attendance wasn’t taken but I think I missed key exam messages!

  • These are awesome tips! For some reason my motivation goes down hill quick when spring semester starts. I need to get my life together after spring break. thanks for sharing!!


    Amy | Pastel N Pink

  • These are great tips! Thanks for sharing them.

    Southern Soul

  • Great tips! Forming study groups was really helpful for me through school.. Along with staying VERY organized! Xoxo Mindy

  • Love all of these tips! I keep telling myself that I’ll be prepared in advance so that when I sit down to study it’s not as terrible, but I always end up leaving everything to the last minute!

    XO, Rachel

  • Love love love these tips! I have a How to Study for an Exam post as well! 😀

  • I didn’t discover quizlet until my last two semesters of college and it was SUCH a game changer! I used it to study for my huge Praxis exams and I know that’s why I was able to pass both on the first try!

  • caroline | thecarodiaries

    These are all such great tips! Quizlet is my go-to! I have midterms this week eeeek!!

  • Olivia Muller

    Preparing in advance is so crucial! Even just reviewing your notes at the end of the week is helpful
    Miss Olivia Says

  • This is very solid reminder for me. I absolutely never blame the professor but I will completely skip out on doing homework. =/

  • These are some excellent tips. As far as the Google one goes… that is SO true. This semester I am taking Physiological Psychology and the anatomy of the brain is really driving me bonkers. I was able to find these great and super useful youtube videos about the different parts and it really helped me be able to “see” what is going in there.

  • Hannah Madison

    Prepare in advance is spot on!! It’s always bad to let work build up.


    Hannah from HMS Jewels