#357 Learning – S2 E3 – Studying at University – Exam preparation

There is only a limited amount of time in our lives. A day has only 24 hours and we can hardly study all the time. Setting priorities, one of the skills you need to master in life, but especially at university.

The script has 800 pages, but the exam takes only an hour and a half. What do you do? The Pareto principle, the 80/20 thing? Or studying every single page by heart?

Setting priorities is the key to everything in life.

It will make the difference between driving a Porsche or a Ferrari, having this partner or the other one, following this profession or the other.

You can’t just learn everything, that is not possible!

When I look at the university system, it seems like there is even no need to learn everything. It might be more than enough to know the stuff for the time of the exam and forget all about it the moment the test is over. Sure, that is not really the intention of studying, but let me tell you this, it might be working!

If you would look at your next exams phase like a professional athlete, you can make things better! I mean, the similarities are definitely there! You have certain events that take place on certain days somewhere in the season. Your skills will not be evaluated in your training sessions, or midway through the semester and no-one cares about you as long as you do not deliver!

Your peak performance a week before or a week after the exam? No! That will not be enough! You need to have the best performance possible on your exam date! But how do you do that?

Imagining you would be a professional triathlete, having qualified for the IRON MAN Challenge in Hawaii.

How would you prepare?

  1. Building up the basics
  2. Work on your weaknesses
  3. Do some simulations of the event
  4. Gather your strength before the event
  5. Reach your peak performance on that exact day

Right! But why don’t you do the very same thing for your next exam phase?

Building up the basics

What is the subject all about? How much do I already know? Is it something independent I have no clue about, or actually just the next level of something I already know/ still know?

Pro tip: Listen to the Prof. in the lectures! This will save you a lot of preparation time!

The goal: Get a basic understanding about the topic. What is it all about? What are the important things? Where are your weaknesses? About which topics is the professor talking all night long?

Starting time: Early on in the semester!!! I repeat! EARLY ON IN THE SEMESTER!

Work on your weaknesses

I know, it makes more fun to work on the things you already know, but this will not really get you anywhere. Generally speaking, the stuff that seems to be hard will be a part of the test. Therefore make sure to invest your time wisely and rather focus on your weaknesses than on your strength!

Pro tip: At that time in the semester, you do not know if it will be a part of the exam or not, therefore don’t overdo it. A general and basic understanding is more than enough!

The goal: Getting a general understanding about the complete topic without noticing huge weaknesses.

Starting time: After one month into the semester.

Do some simulations of the event

Sitting at home and trying to remember all the parts of a certain strategy named after its inventor? Might be easy, but sitting in the exam room, being nervous, experiencing the pressure of having no time, other sounds around you and so on, it might be something else. Therefore, why don’t you simulate the events? You can set the timer, you can do the exercise at crowded places. There is a lot you can do!

Pro tip: The closer you are getting to the exam phase, the less time you will have for something like this. Try to start early!

The goal: Getting used to the exam writing procedure and make the best out of it!

Starting time: One month before the exam, but not one day before the event.

Gather your strength before the event

A lot of students are doing this wrong, therefore listen carefully. If you haven’t studied anything until the day before the exam, sure, you might need to study through the night as well. But for all the others! This is not the thing we want! You need to be relaxed and fresh! Therefore, don’t study through the night! Don’t study right in front of the test! The moment you over-pace, you will not reach your peak performance!

Pro tip: Most of the time you will need to write a lot in the exam, therefore, don’t write a lot the day before the exam. If your hand will hurt even before you start, you will definitely not have fun!

The goal: Go into the exam fresh!

Starting time: 24h before the exam

Reach your peak performance on that exact date

If you want to win the IRON MAN on Hawaii or get a good grade in the next exam you will write, your peak performance needs to be there right on the spot! There is nothing won by starting to prepare too late or too soon. You need to find your rhythm!

Pro tip: If you are going to study, you will write a lot of exams! Therefore analyze your studying style and improve that over time!

The goal: Finding your perfect exam preparation!

Starting time: During the complete semester.


Passing your exams at university, a lot of people have done that before you! But how many people where actually having a strategy for that? Don’t be like other people! Be smart! Understand yourself and find the strategy that is working for you!

See you next time!

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