How to Prepare for an Exam

How to Prepare for an Exam
Are you preparing for an upcoming exam and don’t know how or where to start? This article will explain how to prepare for an exam with confidence.

Table of Contents

Preparing for an exam

Preparing for an exam is as much about your psychology as it is about studying and preparation. The prospect can be overwhelming, the looming anxiety and stress of an upcoming exam can cloud your mind, and you may find yourself wondering where even to begin. But it’s important to realise that you can mediate these feelings.


When proactive in your exam preparation, the intimidation will subside. A weight will be lifted from you. If you carry a lighter load, with fewer worries and uncertainty anchoring you down, your clouded thoughts will become far clearer and much more lucid on the fateful exam day. Here, we will go over the recommended steps that you can take to ensure that you are best prepared for an upcoming exam. These tips can be applied to preparing for any exam, whether it’s for an IELTS test or any other exam scenario, you might face in your life.

Manage your time

Managing your time appropriately leading up to the exam will prove a vital tool to help ease that burden. Create a study schedule that lends itself to your studying style, ensuring that you do not leave things to the last minute. While some people are more inclined to work right up to a deadline, breaking free from this habit and allowing yourself enough time to be fully prepared will have a notable impact on your mindset. You will find yourself less panicked, without anxious thoughts racing through your mind, questioning whether you have covered enough material.


Creating a schedule can help in organising your thoughts. Write down how many exams you have, how much material you need to study, and the time you have left before the day. Once it is written down and in front of you, your mind will be liberated from an administrative task which could hinder your focus on what matters: your studying. If you know what is coming up and how long you have, you can put all your attention into revising.

Understand the test format

Before beginning to study, you must know what to expect from the test format. Become familiar with the exam’s content, including the questions that may arise and how each section is laid out. When going for a hike into the wilderness, you best know the lay of the land and the routes that are available so that you don’t become lost in a sea of trees. You can say the same with an exam. If you know how it is laid out, you will be much more prepared to traverse through the pages on your exam day.


A good way to familiarise yourself with the format is to search for previous exams. While you must be aware that formats can change, understanding how past papers were laid out will give you a good indication of what you should expect. If you’re preparing for the IELTS Writing Part 2 exam, you can review hundreds of writing samples submitted by other students, their scores and feedback for improvement.


Completing previous exams will not only help make you more comfortable with the question formats, but you can also practise measuring the time it may take to complete the test.

Immerse yourself in the subject

Having the subject at the forefront of your daily activities is a valuable tool. For example, if you have an upcoming exam on a language, then read things that interest you in that particular language, such as online magazines, blog posts, or short stories.


You could also write a daily journal or communicate with people online who share similar interests. As another example, if your exam involves literature, plaster your computer desktop with quotes you may need to reference or leave post-it notes across your house with important, relevant information.


Having the subject of your exam become a predominant staple of your daily life will be extremely helpful. When you sit down to complete the exam, you will be surprised at how your brain can recall the information based on previous locations and situations.

Collaborate with other people

When assisted by family, friends, or general communities of people in a similar situation, preparation for your exam will be much simpler. Try to organise study groups so that you can corroborate information and come to answers faster. If focused and working towards a shared goal, groups will ensure you maximise the information you take into the exam. Explain your answers to others, going through your reasoning, including why you have answered a particular question in a certain way. Talking through the process with others will help you better understand your thinking process.

Make your notes personal and understandable

Customise your study notes to make them personal and understandable to you. It may seem simple to memorise information in preparation for the exam, but if you do not understand the information, it will slip from your mind on the exam day. Experiment with categorising information, such as colour coding, so your mind can make links in a style that suits your personality.


Create diagrams, use flashcards, or find other materials and resources that will help you learn the topic at its core. Using visual aids can really help with this. Utilising charts and graphs is great for bolstering your ability to retain and recall information, especially if you are a visual learner. Organising materials into charts and diagrams can condense and simplify information. Again, this will be to your personal preference, but you may find techniques such as this useful on exam day. If you do not understand something, try searching for new information that covers the subject differently or ask a peer, teacher or friend to review it with you. Another perspective may be advantageous to your overall understanding.

Make sure to take breaks!

While it is important to be disciplined and dedicate an appropriate amount of time to your studies, it is equally as important to allow yourself breaks so you do not experience burnout. There is such a thing as over-studying. Regular breaks will allow your brain to calibrate and regain its focus. Studying for hours upon hours, without pause, will hinder your long-term retention of knowledge. As mentioned before, creating a schedule and being aware of time management will prevent you from falling victim to last-minute, all-night cramming and will provide you with the opportunity to take necessary breaks and refresh your mind.</p>

Nutrition, hydration, exercise

The link between self-care and exam revision may seem tenuous, but that is far from the truth. While studying, eating unhealthy food and avoiding exercise will have a knock-on effect on how your mind operates. During the periods when you aren’t revising, make use of the time to do something active. Exercise is not only good as a destresser, but it can boost your overall mindset. Also, it can help improve your sleep, which is crucial to boosting your memory. In fact, research has shown that memories of certain procedures can actually improve while you sleep.


When given the right nutrition, vitamins and hydration, your concentration and memory will improve, and the general boost in well-being can act as a motivator.

Handling the exam day

If you have taken these steps on board, then the lead-up to the exam day will leave you feeling prepared. For the day itself, continue applying this prepared mindset. Prepare all of the materials you need the night before. Upon waking, start the day with a good breakfast, allowing plenty of time to reach the exam centre. Before heading out, gather everything you need, including essentials such as water and any stationary you need for the exam.


As you start the exam, take deep breaths, remain as calm as possible, and remind yourself that you have prepared, prepared, and prepared some more. This should act as a reassurance going into the exam. Ensure to read the instructions and questions thoroughly to avoid unnecessary mistakes. Ask someone supervising for assistance if you are unclear on anything. Do not panic if you get stuck on a question; simply return to it at the end. Once the exam is finished, do not linger on it, as dwelling on something out of your control is no use. If you have taken the necessary steps to prepare, you will be in a great position, so try to avoid going over the exam too much with your peers.

Remind yourself of the hard work you’ve done

Ultimately, when it comes to an exam, all you can do is prepare to the best of your ability. Studying for a test can be stressful, but it is essential to remember that many people are going through similar situations. How you study will be personal to you and no one else. Reminding yourself of the hard work you have put into the entire process will keep your mindset positive and motivated. Try not to compare yourself with others, as we all work differently. As long as you know that you have taken the necessary steps to arm yourself for the exam, you will feel prepared and ready when taking on that first question.


If you’re preparing for the IELTS Writing Part 2 essay, you can practise with hundreds of mock exam questions and get instant feedback from the most comprehensive AI scoring system from IELTS Navigator. Start your free trial today!

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