How to Prepare for an Exam

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  1. Prepare for an Exam Step 1.jpg
    The very first thing to address is when to begin. You must start the process with at least a full night’s sleep between you and the exam. Your brain needs time to subconsciously digest everything you’ve put into it, so you cannot try to cram it all in an hour or two before the exam. The best time to start the process is between the morning and early afternoon of the day before your exam, a good 24-36 hours prior to the start of the test.
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    Now read through the entirety of your notes that will be on the exam. If it’s two pages or twenty pages, this is important. It will refresh you on the subject matter and help you remember what you learned. It will also help to make you aware of all the little bits of information and where they are located within your notes so that you know where to find them when you begin to organize the information.
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    Once you have a sense of where everything fits together, you are going to want to start thinking about how you can group all the information into relevant sections. You will also want to think about how you want to group them, be it based on a specific theme, chronology or by concept.
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    When you have identified the major themes, now is the time that you can use Wikipedia or other online sources to fill in the gaps of information that either you missed or which wasn’t explained clearly. You can now use the theme that you discovered to guide your research and help you determine what information is relevant to the test.
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    By now you should have all the information that you will need to study written out and divided by topic onto separate pieces of paper. This is the point at which you can begin creating a narrative from the information and indexing it in a way that it can be easily remembered on the day of the exam.
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    The method if indexing information can be thought of like creating an information tree. Write the major themes of the exam you came up with onto separate piece of paper. Those are the first branches of the tree. Underneath the themes (which you just determined) are sub-themes, which are the more refined groupings of information within each theme. Below the sub-themes write the topics.
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    As you start memorizing, concentrate on one major theme at a time until you know it well. Once you have the theme and all the information below it pretty well memorized, you can move on to the next one until you have committed to memory everything you need to know for the exam.
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    For the first major theme, start at the top and just read through the tree. After you have refreshed yourself with a general understanding of the information, focus on learning "phrases" for each topic that will help you recall what that information was about.
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    After you feel confident that you know every theme, put down your studying and take a break from the subject. The idea is not to try to cram everything at once into your short-term memory. You want to give your brain time to subconsciously internalize all the information you shoveled at it. For this reason it’s important to start the process at least the day before the exam.
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    On the day of the exam, set your alarm at least two hours before the test. An hour and a half before the exam, start running through all the themes and sub-topics in your head. Like always, check your notes if you get stuck. This is when it’s time to cram—try as hard as you can to commit all the tiny details to short-term memory. You’ll want to try to memorize everything you’ve prepared, but 15 minutes before the exam, stop! In the last few minutes you should not be thinking about the exam at all. Relax and take a few deep breaths, if you follow the steps above everything should be fine!

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