Last-minute study strategies
Where possible, plan your exam study well ahead of time. Although it is not advisable, if there is an emergency or delay it is possible to do some last-minute study for an exam or test. The following approach may help.
- Take 5 pieces of paper (or open up and save 5 new Word documents) and write (or type) one topic or key concept at the top of each page. Add keywords or phrases or use mnemonics when you list your points.
- Without referring to a textbook, in your own words write (or type) a short definition or description of each key concept; try and limit yourself to no more than 10 lines.
- Check your definition and description against your lecture notes, textbook, and/or study guide.
- Revise and modify your notes based on the information in your lecture notes, textbook, etc.
- Place the pieces of paper (or word documents) in order of importance and number them 1 - 5. This could be based on the learning objects of the paper.
If you have time you should repeat the steps above for additional topics, and then reorder the overall level of importance.
You can repeat the whole process, if time allows, to a total of nine concepts as this is the approximate limit you will be able to recall (Miller, 2003). Any more and you will have difficulty at this late stage.
Regard this procedure as an emergency strategy. It should not be a substitute for doing proper exam or test preparation. You will get much better results if you put more time and effort into studying effectively for exams using a long term study cycle.
References and further reading
Miller, G. A. (2003). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. In B. J. Baars, W. P. Banks, & J. B. Newman (Eds.), Essential sources in the scientific study of consciousness (pp. 357-372). MIT Press.