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Student Learning Success Guides!

EXAM-WRITING STRATEGIES can help you achieve better grades on your tests. Nothing replaces good preparation; however, following certain steps can help you increase your marks and decrease your anxiety.


Get plenty of sleep the night before an exam. Eat a healthy breakfast and try not to overdo caffeine or sugar on exam day.

Put yourself into a positive mindset just before the exam: watch a funny cat video and pump yourself up by saying “I’ve got this!" or “All that studying I did is about to pay off!”

If you get stuck on a question, visualize your study area. Imagining your study space helps you retrace the information you are trying to recall.

Take time off from studying on the day of the exam. It can tire you out, overstress your brain and cause confusion.


What strengths do you bring to an exam situation?

Do you feel your grades on exams accurately reflect your knowledge of the subject?

How are tests part of the learning process?

What are two or three ways you can manage stress during an exam?

Test anxiety is a common problem. Have you sought help for this?

Avoid Test Traps

Watch out for these common exam mistakes:

  • Working yourself into a panic talking with other jittery students before a test.
  • Diving into the first question without previewing the whole test.
  • Forgetting to answer questions or missing easy questions at the end of a test because you ran out of time.
  • Racing through a test so you can be the first to leave the room.

Before the Test

Find the exam room before the day of the test and arrive early so you have time to:

  • Choose your favourite seat.
  • Mentally encourage yourself or take a few calming breaths.
  • Brain-dump formulas, quotes, keywords, etc., onto a blank sheet of paper.
  • Pay close attention to the instructor’s last-minute instructions.  
  • Note the time constraints and aim to make good use of your time.

During the Test

Copy the habits of successful test-takers:

  • Read directions carefully!
  • Skim through the entire test to get a picture of the types of questions you’ll need to answer.
  • Note the number of marks each question and each section is worth.
  • Budget your time: aim for half done by the halftime mark.
  • Complete sections you’re confident about first.
  • When filling in Scantron bubble sheets, say the letter in your head to avoid marking the wrong bubble.
  • Before writing an essay response, create an outline, even if it is just a quick diagram with a half-dozen words.
  • Take five or ten minutes to look over your answers before handing in your exam.

After Marked Exams Are Returned

Once you've looked over your test and reacted to your grade, take the time to think more deeply about your performance on the exam:

  • Analyze your errors and your successes.
  • Look up answers to your mistakes.
  • Write down two things that went well and two things to improve so you can take these lessons with you for future exams.
  • If you’re unhappy with your results, ask your instructor if a make-up exam is an option.
  • If possible, save the test so you can study it for future exams.
  • Low score on an exam? Talk to your instructor!
  • High score on an exam? Celebrate your success!