How to prepare for exams: Pro tips from upper-year students

Written by Deea Deb

Hey Lions! Exam season is approaching soon. Prepping for exams can be overwhelming, but we’ve got you covered. We caught up with some of York’s upper-year students for insights into how they manage exams. Here are some tips from the pros! 

Plan your study sessions

Ideally, exam prep should begin at the start of the term.  

“My strategy for the exams is to do all the readings, watch assigned movies, review lectures week by week and to take good notes.” 

— Boris Licina, third year, screenwriting 

But, things may not always go according to plan. If you are still catching up with coursework, it’s alright.  

Schedule your time! When you set out specific times and organize the material you want to cover during each time frame, you will not only feel less overwhelmed but will also avoid cramming. 

— Alina Banga, fifth year, commerce, specialized honours in finance

“When we are less overwhelmed, we can focus better, making us more productive. Preparing early gives you adequate time to discuss topics you may be struggling with, with your professor, TA, Peer-Assisted Study Session (PASS) or Student Numeracy Assistance Centre (SNACK) leaders and peers,” says Banga.  

Pablo Salami, a fourth-year finance student, agrees with Banga. He creates an exam study strategy that helps him stay on track. He suggests, 

A few weeks before exams, you should have your study schedule set: which days you will study, what chapters you will review and what slides you will look over. This makes all the difference.

But don’t overload your calendar or schedule.

“Give yourself free time, too. You should try to study about four to eight hours a week per class (depending on the difficulty), but take breaks, leave personal time to relax and give yourself free days so you can move your study schedule around if needed,” recommends Salami. 

Use different study strategies

Every course needs a different approach to studying. Study strategies for an English or reading-based course might be different than study strategies used for a numeracy-based course.  

For reading-based courses, you will not be able to re-read all the assigned readings before exams.  

Summarize key concepts, themes and connections between texts without referring to your notes. Once you’re done, return to your notes to see what you’ve missed. That way, you can identify the gaps in your knowledge and use your revision time efficiently. 

— Deea Deb, fourth year, English & professional writing

Numeracy-based courses like business, economics, math and statistics require practice.

The more problems you solve, the deeper your understanding of the underlying concepts and theories becomes. Avoid simply skimming through answer guides without attempting the problems. 

—  John Seo, second year, finance 

“It can be deceptively easy to think you've got the hang of it when reading explanations, but under exam conditions, you might find yourself at a loss without hands-on practice,” says Seo.  

Reach out for help if you need it

Most importantly, be patient with yourself. If you are struggling with coursework, make the most of York’s resources, including instructor office hours, PASS and SNACK.  Learning Skills Services also offers workshops dedicated to exam prep, time management, improving memory and more!  

Good luck, folks!