Preparing for exams

The most important thing with exam study is to start early, so that you know what to expect, what you should study and can make a plan of attack!

Exam study tips

When you start studying for your exam you may feel overwhelmed by all the material you have to revise. Below are some tips and techniques to help your study.


Summarising reduces the amount of material you need to remember, and it helps you learn. It involves reading your course materials then reducing the main ideas to key words to memorise. To do this:

  • decide on the most important idea in each paragraph and ask yourself what the paragraph/section is about
  • rewrite the main idea in your own words then reduce it to a short sentence
  • write a few key words (the supporting details) under each main idea.

Reduce and re-create

A similar method to the one above is to reduce and re-create, which involves:

  • reducing the material into manageable chunks by identifying the key words
  • re-creating the information by re-telling it in a different way (paraphrasing) and/or summarising it using your own words.

Check out the following links for more help with paraphrasing and summarising.

Recite aloud

  • Read each section three or four times, paying attention to what you're saying.
  • Hide the page from view.
  • Recite the main points from memory.
  • Check to see if your recall was accurate.
  • Repeat these steps until you can recall the information easily and accurately.

Tip – You could also try recording what you say and playing it back.


Using post-its can help you review/remember important facts or key words. You could:

  • stick them up in places where you won’t miss them and each time you see a post-it, read it
  • move your post-its around so they're not always in the same place
  • use different coloured post-its and pens, symbols, and so on.


To make flashcards:

  • note any questions you think you could be asked as you work through your learning material
  • note any terms, concepts or formulas that you need to learn
  • write each question, term, concept and/or formula on a separate card
  • write the answer or explanation, in your own words, on the other side of the card.

Next, shuffle the cards then:

  • pick the top card and try to answer the question or explain the term
  • if you know it, great, put it at the bottom of the deck
  • if you don’t know it, look at the answer and put the card a few places down in the deck
  • keep working through the deck of cards in this way until you know all the answers.

Example image of a flashcard with study notes on it


Mind mapping

Another great technique you might like to try is mind mapping.


Exam practice

To give yourself the best chance of finishing your exam in time, it’s a great idea to practise and test yourself.

Use past exam papers and practice completing them under exam conditions and timeframes. Check for links to past exam papers for your course in the blue box in My Open Polytechnic. 


Be prepared

It’s also important to be prepared, so before your exam make sure you know:

  • when and where your exam is
  • what you need to take to your exam
  • what you need to do when you get to your exam
  • what you need to do when the exam ends.

Check your learning material or course pages and any exam correspondence from us, and the pages linked below.



Got a question?

If you want to talk with someone about preparing for an exam, contact The Library and Learning Centre | Te Whare Pukapuka Wāhanga Whakapakari Ako. 

Contact the Library and Learning Centre