Study Hacks for Exam Success


You’ve probably realised by now that doing well in exams is not just about memorising lots of information.

Don’t get me wrong, the ability to learn and memorise information effectively makes a big difference. But there are lots of other strategies and practices students can adopt to boost their performance.

Whether you’ve just finished exams or exams are looming, below are some study tips to boost your chances of exam success.

1. Avoid the quick fixes: Sugar blues

Sugar is a quick fix which gives you a short sharp high but then what? You come crashing down and feel worse than you did before. If you want a clear mind and to have better concentration then sugar should be off the menu when you study.

Healthier snack options include berries, nuts, vegetable sticks and hommus and natural yoghurt.

2. Stress Less, Learn More

When you feel stressed your prefrontal cortex goes offline and you can’t think. If you can stay calm, you’ll be able to learn and retrieve the information you need.

3. Change your study space

Mix up your study space every now and then. One day study in the library. The next day find a cosy spot in a quiet café. Sometimes study at home in your room. When you mix up where you study, research show this slows down forgetting and enriches learning.

4. Install Internet Blocker Apps

As exams loom closer, many students spend a lot more time online watching random videos of cats.

Why would this be?

The simple reason is you feel stressed. And when you feel stressed, your self control decreases. This is why you find yourself staring at grumpy cat when you know you should be studying.

Install an Internet blocker app such as Freedom or Self Control to help you focus on what you need to do.

5. Get specific: Change the goal “Study maths” to “Solve 5 equations”

The more vague a task is that you set for yourself, the less likely you are to begin the task. Focus your mind on a specific, concrete action step such as “solve 5 equations”.

This will help to get you kick-started and chances are once you’ve finished those 5 equations you’ll want to keep on studying.

6. Make music your friend (not foe)

Music can help you study in some circumstances. It really depends on what you are doing. If the task is boring and repetitive (e.g. solving the same type of mathematical problem) then the right type of music can motivate you to study.

But if you need to be able to concentrate in order to learn complex information then it’s best to turn the tunes off. This will allow you to direct all your brain power to the task at hand.

7. Go easy with the highlighter

Highlighting information can be risky business. It can create what they call “the illusion of competence”. You think by highlighting the information it has transferred from the page into your brain but most of the time, it actually hasn’t.

It is far more effective to take handwritten notes or draw pictures to convey the information as you read.

8. Snack Study rather than binge study

Studying for short periods of time (15 – 25 minutes) is far more effective than trying to learn everything in one long exhausting study session.

If you attempt to cram in too much information into your brain, not a lot is going to stick and you’ll feel overwhelmed.

Go for regular snack study sessions followed by a 5 – 10 minute break. Then go for another session and then have another break. I recommend working this way for up to 2 hours before you take a more decent break (30 minutes or more).

9. Get plenty of sleep

You cannot afford to pull an all nighter before an exam. Sleep is critical to the learning process.

Aim for 8 – 10 hours of sleep a night. Consider throwing in a 20 minute power nap too if you’re low on energy.

10. Eat breakfast: Your brain needs it

Students who eat breakfast can think better and tend to perform better on tests and exams.

Any breakfast is better than no breakfast but try to avoid the sugary cereals. Muesli with fresh fruit and scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast are perfect pre-exam breakfast options.

Do you have any other exam strategies that have worked for you? Feel free to share them below.