Unfortunately, I didn’t come from a naturally smart family. I’m not one of those people who just waltzes in class and just gets an A. I’m one of those people who studies their ass off to get that B! Additionally, I’m one of those who cannot strategize tests… Double whammy there! However, just because you’re not valedictorian or a straight A student, doesn’t mean you’ll fail in life or not get the dream job you’ve been dying to get. Important thing to remember is to never give up; and this is from experience.

I usually start studying seriously the week before exam. During that week, I take time off work so that I can devote my time to memorizing and understanding my notes. You can probably start studying two weeks before but at least one week should be good depending on your time management and focus.

Recommended tools:

  • Recorded in-class audio/video lecture
  • Lecture notes provided by professor or in-class notes if professor dictates their lectures (I’ve had a professor like that before!)
  • Motivation
  • Tea or coffee
  • Water
  • 30-minute exercise for energy!
  • If you’re religious, maybe reading a holy book or say a small prayer prior to studying to jumpstart your focus
  • Peaceful and quiet environment (go to the library if you have to!)
  • Timer (to remind you when you need to take a break)

Tools not recommended:

  • Social media (I recommend deactivating them temporarily. If anyone looks for you, have an alternative contact info and give a warning before temporarily deactivating account(s))
  • Cell phone
  • Television
  • Music

Here’s what my week usually looks like before the exam:

Monday: Class the whole day. It might as well be a job since I’m there 8am to 6pm!

Tuesday: No class or work. I initially start with listening to my recordings while taking notes. I pause and play a lot! I’m a bit lax since I still have aftershocks from class. My goal is to go through all the topics related to the exam per day. That way, whenever I close my eyes, I can still see my notes! Eat, breathe sleep studying!

Wednesday: No class or work. After listening on Tuesday, I start listening again. This time, much more focused, and not at all lax. I try to listen if there’s anything I missed on the first time.

Thursday and Friday: No class or work. I recite the hell out of my notes out loud. You read me correctly. I RECITE, I DON’T READ QUIETLY. Not only am I “reading” but I’m also “hearing.” I’m using two of my senses to understand my notes instead of just one sense. If I read quietly, I get distracted by random thoughts. We’ve all been there! To supplement all of this, it’s also useful to watch videos like from Khan Academy or Youtube lectures or animations.

Saturday and Sunday: Basically the same as above. However, I mix it up with practice questions to get myself used to taking tests as well as to test my knowledge and critical thinking. At night, I also try to do “maintenance” so I feel fresh and clean by Monday – which is the exam day! Depending on how lecture notes look like, I sometimes test myself via replicating those notes by memory to see if I truly understood what I studied. This doesn’t always work as my notes are usually in powerpoint form. If I have in-class notes via professor dictating, handwriting the notes again is very useful. Otherwise, it all depends on methods and lecture format.

Monday: EXAM DAY! I wake up around 4 am and study for about 30 minutes then fall back asleep. After sleeping for 30 minutes, I study for another 30 minutes. I only study the ones that are most important in these two thirty-minute reviews. Around 5:30 am, I get ready for school and leave by 6:30 am. I try to be at school by 8 am – yes, I commute and it’s rush hour but I get to nap on the train! I usually eat breakfast number 2 at school – I’m also a part-time hobbit. I need a hearty breakfast to function for that exam and I make sure I have coffee on me for the exam. Prior to the exam, I also do a mock exam. Because my exams are usually 50 questions, I do 50 practice questions. This method doesn’t always work with everyone especially if you don’t have the materials for it or that the exam is an essay – whatever the professor feels like doing.

There it is! That’s how my week usually goes. I basically eat, breathe, sleep studying. Seriously, I don’t even take a full shower in that week until Saturday or Sunday! That’s how I maximize my time. However, if you want to feel fresh and clean before and/or after studying, please do. It’ll help you concentrate more.

Important notes:

  • Be sure to take a 10-15-minute break time every hour you study. This is to maximize primacy and recency effect. We are most likely to remember the first and last thing we studied. If you take breaks every 3 hours versus 1 hour, you are less likely to remember the information. The brain needs time to sink that information in.
  • If at all you feel tired during the day, try to do 100 squats if your body is able to. If not, try any form of cardio that’s safe. The goal is to get that blood pumping to your brain to increase focus. You could also take this time to take a break depending on your timer. Make a snack or go for a short walk.
  • Eat healthily as nutritious foods can help with increased energy, focus and motivation. Plus your body will thank you!
  • If life gets in the way, take a deep breath. Handle the situation as best you can. If there’s down time during this situation, take out your notes and study – this is where digitalized notes come in handy!
  • Lastly, for the love of God, please get 7-9 hours of sleep! Lack of sleep can decrease concentration, memory retention and might affect your immune system.



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