Monday Master Class: The Study Hacks Guide to Exams

Exam Season is Upon UsExam

As we careen into May, there is one thing likely dominating your college student mind: exams. In recognition of this (terrible) reality I’m dedicating all of this week’s posts to strategies, tips and screeds about kicking ass during finals period. Today, we’ll get things started by dipping into the always exciting Study Hacks archives to highlight some of the most important test taking related posts you may have missed.

The Best of Study Hacks Exam Articles

On Preparation:

Drizzle Test Preparation Over Many Days
How early should you start studying? This post lays out the basic philosophy preached in Straight-A. Put simply: start early; work in little batches.

Use Focused-Question Clusters to Study for Knowledge Based Tests
How should you study for classes that require you to know a large number of facts and concepts? I overlooked these classes in Straight-A (as many of you subsequently brought to my attention.) In this post I rectify this oversight. It was originally written for multiple choice tests, but the advice is relevant for any exam requiring a large amount of memorized information.

Pseudo-Work Doesn’t Equal Work and Studying is a Technical Skill
How are some high-scoring students able to escape the stress of the grind lifestyle? These two early posts, from a series titled “The Straight-A Gospels,” lay out the core philosophical ideas behind the mysterious, yeti-like low-stress ‘A.’ I recommend a quick review before diving too deep into exam period chaos.

On Test-Taking and the Aftermath:

Five Ways to Avoid Panicking on a Hard Test
You know the feeling: you flip open the exam, read the first question, then freeze. This post helps you move past test-taking panic and maximize your score regardless of the situation.

How to Perform a Post-Exam Post-Mortem
When you hand in that blue book — brimming, I’m sure, of brilliant analysis — your job is not quite over. This post explains what to do once the graded exam is handed back; a 10-minute targeted review of what went right and what went wrong, will make your life significantly easier in upcoming semesters.

Ignore Your G.P.A.
This Unconventional Scholar essay tackles the larger question of what significance exam performance should play in your life. It’s core message: ignore your cumulative G.P.A. Instead, view each courses as an individual challenge to come up with the most efficient possible method for learning the material. Sometimes you’ll screw up the actual exam. That’s okay. Believe in your strategies and keep improving; it’ll save you a fortune on ulcer medication.

11 thoughts on “Monday Master Class: The Study Hacks Guide to Exams”

  1. Thanks for the post Cal, it comes at a good time.

    (I ordered How to Win at College last night, and will be reading it over during the summer in preparation for my transfer in the Fall.)

  2. A fortune in ulcer medication, you say? You’ve just convinced me! 😉

    Seriously though, this is good stuff.

    I’m having a break between semesters — I think my schedules are kinda different — but that doesn’t mean I won’t be honing strategies now. Since I probably won’t have time to really dig into it when my exam periods come up.


  3. “In character, in manners, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”
    -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  4. “In character, in manners, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”
    -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Yet Longfellow also says:

    “Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.”

    How do we combine sublime simplicity with greatness. There’s the real head scratcher…

  5. Hi Cal,
    I’m a student from MIT currently taking 6 classes (5 sciences and 1 HASS). I have trouble with preparing for the exams since some weeks I have 3 exams happening at the same time. Your strategy is very helpful, but how can you have to review for many classes while still keeping up with your classes (pset and reading assignment)? Specially, for students taking a heavy load, what is the best strategy for them to finish the course successfully?
    Thank you

  6. Hello my name is Cindy. I have to ask you something, because I really need your help. It feels like no matter how hard I try (studying, doing the work over and over again such as maths to fully understand what I’m dealing with, listening to what other straight-A students say for some tips, even reading your blog) I just can’t seem to achieve that A. Please Cal, or anybody reading this…I need to get those desired grades to study medicine. Please? Help if you can 🙂


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