The best advice I received regarding exams was from a career guidance counselor who studied the same degree I wanted to pursue. They advised me to worry less about covering all the course content but instead to focus my attention on doing exam questions, under exam conditions & in five minutes under the allocated time.

  1. Exam Papers 📖

History repeats itself. More often than not this holds true when it comes to exams as lecturers are more than happy to rehash old exam questions they have used before. Rather than learning-off the course syllabus, it is best to create sample answers to past exam questions.

Most colleges will have an exam portal to access previous exam papers, I would recommend completing every exam questions listed if possible. Once you have created strong sample answers you can work on improving these with additional sources & references as you go.

2. Exam Conditions 🧹

Exam settings are daunting and unnatural. You are placed in a massive hall among hundreds of your classmates with a clear desk, complete silence (minus a ticking clock) and invigilators watching your every move.

The uncomfortable nature of taking an exam can put people off. This is something you can also prepare for. You should study (practice exam questions) under exam conditions.

This means, no distractions — no laptops, no phones, no music playing, no dogs barking … you get it. Preparing psychologically and replicating an exam setting can help you relax when you go to sit the paper. Something that worked wonders for me as well, was visiting the exam venue a few weeks before to know what you are getting yourself into and visualize the exam ahead of time.

3. Timing ⏰

The easiest way to maximize points in an exam is to complete every question. You can have an amazing Part A but if you don’t start Part B or C you are in big trouble.

So, you have got your sample answers prepped and learned, you have your workstation similar to the exam setting, now it is time to test yourself. Can you complete the question with 5 minutes to spare?

What I mean by that is if you have 30 minutes to complete Part A, can you get it finished in 25 minutes? The rationale behind this isn’t to rush your answers but what you will find (I guarantee you), is if it takes you 25 minutes at home, it will take the full 30 in the real exam. This is down to the fact that there will be some nerves on the day.

Conclusion

I don’t envy anyone about to start summer exams, it is a stressful time. However, there is no better feeling than completing exams and having the entire summer free — enjoy that while you can!

All you can do is try your best, it is not the end of the world if an exam doesn’t go to plan, we have all been there. Although, I believe from my experience, that the best way to prepare is to do as many past exam papers as you can while recreating an exam atmosphere slightly below the time allocated.

To learn more about what to do post-exams & help with transitioning from college to company, reach out to the Gradguide team, we’d be happy to help!

Gradguide is a career guidance and mentorship program designed to help college students and recent graduates land their first job in tech. We pair you with a mentor to help improve your CV, find the right roles to apply for, prepare for interviews and seek referrals to the best companies around.