Exam season is not as daunting as you may think.

It’s that beautiful time of year where the leaves start changing colours and the Starbucks seasonal drinks come out— which can only mean one thing: midterm season!  

As the moment of truth approaches, it may be stressful for first-year college or university students taking their first set of post-secondary exams. 

So, to help you manage the midterm stress, IGNITE has created a guide on how to steer clear of six common first-year exam mistakes. 

Before the exam

Understand the exam format

Is it multiple-choice? Short answer? Essay format? 

Ask your professor to clarify the format of the test to ensure there are no surprises. No one wants to study for a multiple-choice only to realize last-minute that you need to write an essay.

Michael Scott from "The Office" saying "I UNDERSTAND NOTHING"

Start studying ahead of time 

Create a study schedule at least two weeks prior to the exam.

Once you receive your exam date, schedule times to study each day leading up to it. Try spending 45 minutes to an hour each day reviewing materials for a specific course; that way, you’ll save yourself from frantically cramming the night before. 

Trust us, pulling an all-nighter the night before an exam never turns out the way you want it to.

Girl writing in a notebook with a hot coffee on the side.

Study during the day 

Schedule your exam prep sessions during the day to make sure you don’t fall asleep on your work.

Studying in the morning after a good night’s sleep helps you have a clear mind and more thoroughly absorb information.  

The sun.

During the exam

Read each exam question clearly 

It’s easy to misunderstand a question on a test if you only skim through it. Read questions multiple times to make sure you fully understand it and can answer it to the best of your ability.  

A cat reading and turning a page.

Skip over questions (but come back to them!) 

For many multiple-choice format exams, you can skip a question and come back to it.

This option is great when you’re stuck on a question and need a brain refresh. Just make sure you don’t forget to come back to it later! 

Pro tip: keep a list (in pencil) of all the questions you need to return to in the corner of your page. Answer the ones you know instantly first, then go back through the exam to think through the ones that stumped you.

A dog confused with question marks.

Prepare your supplies in advance  

You don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute for a calculator or that special pen you need for your exam.

No matter if your exam is online or in-person, collect your supplies in advance to save yourself from panicking 10 minutes before the clock starts. And, whether you’re a UofGH or Humber student, make sure you have your student ID—this will most likely be used to prove your identity for the exam.   

A variety of Sharpie pens moving spread out in a circle.

At the end of the day, don’t stress too much—we were all first-years at one point. Trust us, by next exam season, you’ll have found out what works for you (and what doesn’t).

To first-year students and beyond: best of luck with your studies and exams. And, make sure to treat yourself and celebrate once they’re over!

Here’s how UofGH and Humber students cope with midterm season!

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