How to study effectively for exams in a short time

Updated at 13 Sep 2022

This guide can assist you in preparing for an exam within a limited time. These strategies work even if you only have a few weeks or days before the exam.

Try short but intense study sessions

You might not want to spend too much time studying because of work or other obligations. Study more thoughtfully and not harder to save time. Scheduling shorter and more intense study sessions are one way to achieve this(e.g., Pomodoro technique). Your brain can process more information if you have shorter study sessions. In addition, these sessions are easier to manage for those who don't have the time.

Even if you only study for 30 minutes per week, it is essential to set a schedule. Even if you are cramming as the test day approaches, it is better to plan and have a solid foundation for shorter study sessions than to rush and not have enough time to study.

short and focused study sessions to prepare for exams

No multitasking, focus well

Multitasking negatively impacts exam results and performance. Multitasking can distract you from your studies and cause distractions. You must eliminate distractions to be fully present and engaged in your study sessions.

Apps and browser extensions can help you reduce the time you spend on different websites daily. For example, you can turn off your mobile phone while you study or silence the notifications so that you are not distracted by texting or gaming. Tell people that you are studying to make sure they keep track of your time.

Find and learn from the previous exam papers, cheatsheets

You have very little time to learn and do all the other things. To score well in exams, make the most of it. It would help if you began by reviewing the previous year's question papers per the syllabus for the exam.

You will need to collect question papers from the previous years for at most 5-10 years. To determine which chapters have more or less importance, you can check the weighting of the questions in each chapter. It may help you comprehend the most critical topics in each chapter you must study to pass your exam.

Remove the fluff, learn what you'll need

Students tend to take their smartphones, laptops, tablets with them while they try to study. Of course they have a huge impact on the studying process and affect your ability to concentrate. It would help if you kept only what you needed to study, such as notebooks, papers, stationery, questions, etc. Then, you can keep everything you need in one place, so you don't have to get up and interrupt your studies to look for them.

Add visuals to your cheatsheets

Your brain likes to remember visual things because they're encoded differently than text, for example. Text is a collection of information you need to represent in your brain and make connections between this and that fact.

Recall how you remember visual things like fun events or weird stuff you saw on the street a year ago. Make use of your brain better, and let it memorize information faster. Try to draw the information you're trying to learn: it can be drawings, charts, or any kind of visuals.

visuals to prepare for exams

Get the fundamentals first

The syllabus can be divided into elaborative or core materials. The core material consists of fundamental concepts, formulae, diagrams and graphs, and essential diagrams. While the elaborative material includes illustrations, examples, and quotes, it also contains theorems and theorems.

The core material will likely account for up to 80% of the questions you'll be asked during the exam. So don't be discouraged by your incomplete syllabus. Instead, focus on the basics of the topics.

Don't get distracted!

While it might seem challenging to concentrate when studying, you can ensure that your routines are transparent and avoid distractions. Keep your mind and body focused by creating a to-do list.

  1. Use the Pomodoro technique to stay focuces for an allocated amount of time. This technique is best used with a timer that divides work into 25-minute intervals with short pauses.
  2. Disable notifications (emails, messages, apps, etc.) and reduce the number of open Internet tabs to an absolute minimum. Or, you can study without the internet altogether.
  3. Divide large assignments into manageable chunks.
  4. Reduce the noise by listening to music or using headphones.
  5. Locate the most productive environment to study.
  6. Organizing and tidying up your desk is essential to be more productive.
  7. Learn how to focus while reading.

remove distractions when you prepare for exams in a short time

See also How to focus on studies without getting distracted.

Enhance your learning process

Take notes

Note-taking refers to taking notes from various sources and platforms to organize them and write them down. The writer takes notes to capture the material's essence and ease the burden of remembering it all. You can use different methods to take notes.

Linear notetaking

Linear notetaking is a method of noting down information in the same order you receive it. Linear notes are lists of ideas, outlines, or sections of lectures or books in chronological order.

Non-linear note-taking

Non-linear notes are any style of note-taking not in chronological order. Non-linear notes can be used to group concepts, ideas, and essential concepts based on their relationship or relevance. These are some examples of non-linear note-taking techniques: Mind maps are the best way to organize ideas.

Charting: When the subject matter can easily be broken down into categories, this approach to taking notes is suitable. Cornell Notes system: This strategy uses the "two-column notes" style. The "cue" (or "recall") column takes up approximately a third of the page. The right column, which takes up about two-thirds of the page, is used for taking notes.

See also Why reading alouds is important.


Reviewing is reviewing or restudying material in preparation for an exam. Reviewing effectively requires that you include some testing. It also shrinks the knowledge gaps you have because you know what you don't know.

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