Last Updated on November 19, 2021 by Jessica Reid
Last Minute Study Hacks Before An Exam
If you are seriously pressed for time and need some last-minute study hacks to pass your exam, then you’ve come to the right post!
There have been MANY times that I’ve had to study last minute for an exam because it was the last exam following two exams back-to-back.
I always had as little as 24-48 hours to study, but with my last-minute study hacks, I never got less than a B.
As such, these study hacks are effective and I am confident that if you apply them, you’ll greatly increase your odds of doing well on your exams too.
So let’s not waste any time.
Let’s jump in!
Study Hack 1: Throw Concepts and Keywords Into Flashcards
One of the most effective ways to study for an exam last minute is by throwing concepts and keywords into flashcards and testing yourself. To create your flashcard, you should pull from:
- your class notes
- your professors’ study guide (if they supplied you with one)
- your class PowerPoint slides and
- concepts in the textbook you know the exam will cover that isn’t already fleshed out in your notes
While there is some upfront work involved in putting flashcards together, what you’ll get out of it makes the process totally worth it.
You’ll be able to drill the information into your head and figure out if you know the information for memory or not, in REAL time.
And figuring out what information you know for memory in real-time is SUPER helpful, because then you don’t have to keep going over the same concepts.
You can move on and focus on the concepts that you’re having a hard time learning for memory and still need to cover.
Plus when you put things into a flashcard, it gives your brain room to breathe and digest the material faster.
It can also manage your study time more effectively.
Bonus Tip 1:
It is best practice to create all of your flashcards first before you study, that way you can just focus on studying.
Bonus Tip 2:
If I had 48 hours to study, I would spend Day 1 creating flashcards and Day 2 memorizing them.
If I had just 24 hours to study, I would spend 4-5 hours creating flashcards, and the rest of the day studying.
Study Hack 2: Create An Outline
Creating flashcards will always be my top, top recommendation for studying last minute for an exam.
However, if your exam is open book, then a better, effective last-minute study hack is creating an outline.
Like, why kill minutes on your test thinking about something or scrambling through decks of cards to find the answer, if you can have the answer at the fingertips of your outline???
Outlining will force you to organize concepts, theories, analyses, formulas, and other information in a step-by-step, in-you-own-words way that will make it easier for you to understand and digest.
Plus, outlining will help your brain compartmentalize the concepts better, making it easier for you to recall the information and where it’s located.
To create your outline, use your textbook’s table of contents as your headers and subtopics within your outline.
See my this employment law book and my outline (below) from law school as an example:
Bonus tip: When you finish your outline, tab them so you waste no time searching for what you need on exam day.
Study Hack 3: Tackle Hard Problems First
This point is self-explanatory but it is certainly worth emphasizing here – If you are super pressed for time:
It is so tempting to start studying the easy questions or concepts to massage our ego and make ourselves feel better about a crappy situation, but you don’t have time for that.
You need to do everything in your power to INCREASE your chances of passing your exam.
For this reason, tackle the hard problems and concepts first.
If you are able to get through everything and still have time left, then circle back and review the easier concepts in depth.
Of course, you should definitely make some time to review the easier concepts to make sure you know it for memory.
However, I’d leave these concepts towards the end of my study and skim through them once I’ve nailed down the harder concepts and reviewed the information I don’t know too well.
Study Hack 4: Do Exercises And Problems
Got some problems you can do?
These are other great last-minute study hacks you can use to prepare for your exam.
There is no better tell-tell sign that you’ve mastered a concept and/or are ready for an exam than a problem.
Do as many exercises or problems as you can do. It’ll help you understand the subject better and help hard concepts stick in your mind long after the exam is over.
Plus who knows! Your teacher may throw you a bone and put the same exact problem on the exam!
Professors have done that on my test all the time!!
Bonus tip 1: If you’ve gone through all your problems and exercises, write the problem or exercise on a separate sheet of paper, work through the problem, and see if you come to the same answer.
It’s a great way to test if you truly know the material or not.
Bonus tip 2: If you’re preparing for a math test and need someone to fact check your work, check out this app:
Algebrator: Camera Math Solver (available @ the App Store and on Google Play) (After you click the link, look to the right of the page and click on the app that’s compatible with your phone!)
All you have to do is take a picture of your problem with your camera phone, and Algebrator does the rest!
Study Hack 5: Talk it Out/Teach Yourself
In addition to doing one or two of the above last-minute study hacks, I highly encourage that you talk out what you’re studying.
It’s a great way to get information down FAST when you are pressed for time because rather than rattling off about a concept over and over again in your brain, you can teach/talk the concept out for yourself in your own words and move on once you understand it.
If you notice that you’re having trouble explaining it to yourself, then just imagine your professor trying to make sense of what you’re saying on the exam.
They won’t think to long and hard about what grade to give you so don’t leave your professor in the grey.
Take a couple of minutes, talk it out until you can clearly explain, resolve, or define the concept/keyword/or problem to yourself.
Study Hack 6: Study in Intervals and Take Breaks
It can be SUPER tempting to just study without stopping since you are super crunched for time, but studying straight is not the answer!
You brain cannot absorb AND hold a bunch of new information at one time.
I promise you. Half of the information will just go out the window and you will have just wasted your time.
You need to study in intervals and take intentional breaks so that way your brain has time to compartmentalize the information and play catch up.
An effective study interval/break technique that has proven to work for many students is the pomodoro method, where you work for 25 minutes and break for 5 min, work for 25 minutes, and break for 5 and so on.
You can set up your own intervals using this pomodoro countdown timer if those intervals are too short for you.
I personally like to study for an hour, rest for 5-10 minutes (micro-nap), and go for an hour again.
Do whatever works best for you–just don’t cram!
Study Hack 7: Review Your Notes Before Bed
The last and final study hack that has helped me tremendously for an impending exam is reviewing my notes before bed.
And this is where flashcards and outlines come in…and why it’s SO good to create them for times like these.
Also, a Harvard study suggested that while you sleep and dream, your brain goes to work reactivating and organizing concepts recently learned which improves memory and boosts performance.
As such, don’t waste this easy hack! Read through your notes again one more time before bed to increase your chances of doing well on your exam.
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