Prove It: Preparing for Exams

So, you’ve sat through many¬† lectures, spent countless hours flicking through books and journals and written so many words you’ve have thought you could make a small book out of your essays. And now it’s time to take up your fabled pens and pencils once again, to sit at a small desk and pile out a few more answers in a couple of hours silence to prove it that you’re worthy of the degree you hope to get in the next couple of months or years.

This month’s posts are a guide to just that. You think you can come out of uni with that pretty fancy piece of paper? Prove it! This week we’re on Exams and the run up to them.


Just like the ones you took in school and college (SATs, PATs, ACTs, A Levels etc) for some degree programs you’ll have to sit an exam in order to pass your modules. These exams rarely differ from their junior counterparts however the rules may work a little differently with the Exam board being the university themselves. Whilst I was lucky enough to only sit 4 exams in my first degreeand 3 more for my Masters (none of which were thankfully written), taking from the experience I had of preparing on top of that of my floor/housemates and friends as well as lessons learend.

Know Your Content

Studying alone is hard enough. Studying the wrong topics however just makes things harder for yourself and can waste a lot of valuable time. Check your handbooks and module outlines carefully to find out the structure of the exam. If in doubt, check with your lecturer or tutors of each respective module.

The Library is Still a Thing

Some people may not have yet set foot in their library (I managed to somehow avoid it for the whole first year), but it’s a promising place designed to help you get the answers you’ll need for your questions. It’s not just all books, there’s plenty of resources in your respecitive universities’ libraries, a lot of which can even be found online now. If your uni is signed up to journal websites, ask a librarian about Shibboleth or Athens access (if your university uses those services) or what journal sites your institution may be signed up to – that way you won’t even have to get out of bed to get reading!

If you don’t need any further books, but just a place you can relax in some quiet time, need a computer or just somewhere to stick your headphones in and not be distrubed, then check out your opening times and give it a try.

Come Together

When revising with people who are on the same course as you, it can help to study together. How you do it is whatever works for you all best. Some like to form a study group and sit in a meeting space (think of the show “Community”). Others prefer to get a little more technical (such as a Slack team, Facebook group or a Skype Conference Call) and some just plain creative. One interesting example was in my first year when a large majority of my block were studying Latin terminonlogy for the speicies and genus for a classification exam in Ecology and Marine Biology. In order for everyone to learn (and for people on other courses to get a free bit of trivia) people took to asking whilst passing in the hall or shouting across the corridor as an open question during our open door policy times on each floor – hoping to hear either a latin or English name in return. Whilst this sounds like it could get annoying, it did work and to this day I can still tell you what Turdus Merula and Crangon Crangon are in English (Common Blackbird and Common Shrimp respectively).

Don’t Go Crazy

Sounds like backwards thinking right? Well it’s a true fact that little and often can serve great benefit to the studying mind over spending hours at a time studying without a break. It’s also worth planning a few days off studying and switching topics now and again to keep your brain active and your view fresh.

And most importantly, if you feel like you’ve read the same page 3 times and nothing’s going in. Stop. Go out, have some fresh air, grab a drink and a bite to eat and come back to it another time. Failing to do so will only make you feel more frustrated and paranoid, attempt to try harder (though you’ll feel distracted as you’re trying to prove it to yourself rather than actually studying the content) and you’ll just end up in a vicious cycle – so take it easy and you’ll find you take on more than you’d expect.

Ask Your Tutor

If you’re struggling on a cerain topic, why not book a tutorial with your tutor? After all, their job is to teach you the content you need to obtain your degree, so a little extra help in the alotted times won’t hurt! If your current lecturer isn’t availalbe, see if somebody else in the department may be able to help. Knowledge afrer all is agnostic and designed to be shared among others (otherwise what would be the point of studying if you couldn’t have the knowlesge in the first place?)

It’s Just One Part

I’m not suggesting that exams should be taken lightly, but remember not all modules and exams are created equally. So prioritise your studies to your weaknesses, then by percentage weighting to ensure you’re supporting yourself properly, rather than overbearing on a subject you could pick up pretty well and leaving yourself at risk for the toughie. At the end of the day, your degree is probably made up of many modules, which in turn the exams are only a part of them, so don’t overstresss. Just take them on one at a time and don’t fret if one section appears harder than the other – just plan it accordingly and you’ll know what to spend more time on.


This is just a small selection of tips and I’m sure many people past and present throghout their years at uni will be able to shed further light on the best methods of getting ready for it all. If you have any of your own, please feel free to share them in the comments below and maybe help out a fellow student.