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Academic Success Center

(979) 458-4900 9th floor Rudder Tower

Exam Preparation

Exams are high-stakes. In many classes, semester grades hinge on 3-4 major tests. This 50-minute lesson improves exam preparation through a deliberate approach. An overview of the 5-day study plan, a proven approach to exam preparation, is provided; in addition, active study strategies are introduced. These strategies can increase learning and retention of material beyond just rote memorization.


  • Recognize the importance of a systematic approach to test-preparation
  • Understand cognitive processes of learning
  • Apply the 5-day study plan
  • Identify learning preferences and favored learning environments
  • Identify learning levels required by course/exam
  • Create study materials appropriate to learning preferences and knowledge level
  • Apply active learning strategies
  • Employ strategies to minimize test anxiety
  • Create a 5-day study plan
  • Learn to apply the 5-Day Study Plan to prepare for multiple exams at one time
  • Conduct a Post-Test Analysis to adjust Exam Preparation strategies for future tests.


Instructor resources

Sufka, K. J., (2018). The A Game: Nine Steps to Better Grades (pp 29-71). Oxford, MS: Nautilus Publishing.

Pauk, W., and Owens, RJQ. (2008). How to study in college (pp. 265-303). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Summary of actions

(Slides explain the basic concepts covered in this lesson.)

  • Introduce the concept of studying as a systematic process with best practices derived from cognitive psychology and education research.
  • Ask students to describe their study routines (possibly an in-class activity to consider for a few minutes, then discuss in groups).
  • Explain information processing/how learning works optimally, as described in the slides.
  • Explain Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve (see slides) and how regular review at increasing intervals helps us avoid it.
  • Explain how Bloom’s taxonomy can help students know at what levels of learning they should be studying.
  • Ask students what kinds of study materials they might create for application, analysis, evaluation, synthesis, creation.
  • Introduce and explain the 5-day study plan. This video (3:55) may help.
  • Model the 5-day study plan.
  • Have students in groups or individually do the Making and Using Study Materials activity.
  • Discuss as a class or in groups th difference between making and using study materials.
  • Have students fill in the 5-day study plan matrix.
  • Discuss how students might study for more than one exam in the same week or on the same day.
  • Discuss and explain how to use a Post-Test Analysis to adjust future Exam Preparation. You might find this video (3:54) useful as a way to explain post-test analysis. 

Other handouts you might use

How to Keep Calm during Tests
Learning Modalities
Post-Test Analysis
Strategies for Different Test Formats
Testing Overview

Last Updated: 01/03/2023

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute The Academic Success Center, Texas A&M University.