7 Powerful Ways to Study for an Exam


Preparing for an exam can be a daunting task, but with the right studying methods, you can maximize your chances of success. In this article, we will explore the 7 best ways to study for an exam. These methods are not only actionable but are also proven to be effective in helping you retain and recall information. Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Free Recall with Mind Maps

One of the best ways to study for an exam is by using free recall combined with mind maps. Free recall involves testing your memory by trying to retrieve information without any prompts or cues. Mind maps, on the other hand, are visual representations of concepts and ideas, which can help you organize and connect information.

To utilize this method, start by creating a mind map of the topic you’re studying. Then, try to recall as much information as possible from memory and fill in the mind map accordingly. This technique not only strengthens your memory but also enhances your understanding of the subject matter.

Anki Flashcards with Spaced Recall

Another effective method for exam review is using Anki flashcards with spaced recall. Anki is a digital flashcard app that employs spaced repetition, a technique that optimizes learning and retention by spacing out the intervals at which you review information.

Create flashcards with key dates, facts, and concepts that you need to recall for the exam. As you review the flashcards, Anki will adapt the intervals based on your performance, ensuring that you focus more on the cards you struggle with. This method helps you retain information in the long term and makes exam preparation more efficient.

Practice with Past Exams

Practicing with past exams is an excellent way to familiarize yourself with the format and types of questions that may appear on the upcoming exam.

Try to get past exams from your instructor or online resources and answer the questions under timed conditions. Khan Academy, and Fiveable (for AP Classes) offer great practice questions for many of the classes you take in high school.

By practicing with past exams, you not only gain a better understanding of the exam structure but also identify any knowledge gaps that need to be addressed.

At this point, you might notice a commonality: all the best ways to review primarily involve finding knowledge gaps and reviewing based on that. From an efficiency standpoint, it is far more effective to review knowledge you don’t know rather than concepts that are already solidified and well-understood.

Ideally, go over practice questions without the answer key – this way, you’re only focusing on finding your knowledge gaps (with questions you’re not 100% sure about)

For each question, make sure to review and analyze your answers to learn from your mistakes and improve your performance.

Create Summaries and Outlines

Summarizing and creating outlines of the study material can help you condense and organize information in a more digestible format. Start by reviewing your notes, textbooks, and other relevant resources. Then, extract the key points and concepts and create concise summaries or outlines.

All the previously mentioned strategies work better if you’ve learned the content well the first time. Check out our article on delayed notetaking to learn a powerful technique to do so.

This method allows you to grasp the main ideas and relationships between different topics, making it easier to review and recall the information during the exam.

Keep in mind, this is only as powerful as the relationships you draw between ideas, so make sure you’re incorporating non-linearity to your summaries (make them mind-map-esque).

Form Study Groups

Collaborating with peers and forming study groups can be highly beneficial for exam preparation. Engaging in discussions and explaining concepts to others can deepen your understanding of the subject matter. Additionally, studying in a group setting allows you to share resources, clarify doubts, and gain different perspectives.

However, it’s important to ensure that study groups remain focused and productive. Establish clear goals and guidelines, allocate specific study times, and encourage active participation from all members.

Teach Someone Else

Teaching someone else is a powerful way to reinforce your own learning. Find a study partner, friend, or family member and explain the concepts and topics related to the exam to them. By teaching others, you are forced to organize your thoughts and articulate the information clearly.

Furthermore, teaching someone else requires you to understand the material at a deeper level, as you may encounter questions or gaps in your own knowledge. This method not only enhances your understanding but also boosts your confidence in the subject matter.

Take Breaks and Practice Self-Care

While studying for an exam, it’s crucial to prioritize self-care and take regular breaks. Research suggests that taking breaks improves focus, concentration, and overall productivity. Schedule short breaks during your study sessions to relax, stretch, or engage in activities that help you recharge.

Additionally, make sure to get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, and exercise regularly. Taking care of your physical and mental well-being plays a significant role in optimizing your cognitive function and exam performance.


Preparing for an exam requires effective studying methods that promote retention and recall of information. By incorporating techniques such as free recall with mind maps, Anki flashcards with spaced recall, practicing with past exams, creating summaries and outlines, forming study groups, teaching someone else, and practicing self-care, you can enhance your exam review process and increase your chances of success. Remember to tailor these methods to suit your learning style and preferences. Good luck!





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