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Writing Examinations

The written exam is the most prevalent means of evaluating student learning, at the university. So -- Be Prepared!

A large portion of the Learning Skills Program can be applied to exam preparation, since, in effect, everything you do in a course (except possibly work on assignments) will contribute to your performance on the final exam: this includes taking lecture notes and reading, as well as more deliberate review and study strategies.

Guidelines and Tips

(1) Target Your Studying

Figure out what is important and will likely appear on the exam, by looking at old exams and analyzing what the professor emphasizes in class. This includes not only content, but also the level of learning of the questions, and the learning channel .

(2) Practice Appropriate Activities

Studying for an exam should be seen as practicing the activities you will have to perform in the exam, under exam conditions. For example, if you will have to do problems, practice doing problems from memory, within a time limit. Or, if you will have to write essays, practice writing essays from memory, within a time limit.

(3) Keep Up Throughout the Term

Keeping in mind the two guidelines above, review regularly throughout the term. Without regular review, you may have to re-learn a large portion of the course in the week or two before the final -- when you are most likely to be finishing up major assignments and studying for other courses. With regular review, you will likely do well on the exam even if you do not have much time to study.


Towards the end of each term, we usually offer workshops on exam preparation that also cover exam anxiety, and strategies to apply when you are actually writing the exam. However, we urge you to get off to an early start with exam preparation, by keeping the exam in mind, and reviewing throughout the term. If you anticipate difficulties in this area, make an appointment to see a Learning Skills counsellor -- as soon as possible. Or if difficulties arise toward the end of the term, we may be able to help you develop and apply efficient strategies for "damage control." Check out our schedule of activities for this month.


The Modular Learning Skills Course covers a number of skills that will contribute to successful writing of exams, either directly or indirectly, including three specifically on exam preparation.


The following handouts on preparing for and writing exams are available at Counselling Services. .

A major problem that some people face in dealing with exams is anxiety. For tips on dealing with anxiety and stress, check the following Counselling Services materials:


Updated: May 2012

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