I’m not sure what to study for my exams.

You have a few sources of information about what will be included in your exam:

  • Look at the exam questions from previous years, if they are available from either the library (see the Library Resources link on the right) or your department, school or discipline.
  • The unit of study outline will show you the most important topics of the unit of study.
  • Your lecturer or tutor may suggest which topics are most important in the unit of study. You can always ask for more information about the content of the exam, although your lecturer or tutor may refuse to provide it.

You may need some strategies for prioritising different topics to study, since there is usually a lot of information and not a lot of time:

  • First do a quick review of all the main topics. Then go back to the topics which are more difficult and review those in more detail.
  • If you do not know how much detail you need to study, try looking at each topic in progressively more detail. That is, first study all of the topics at a very general level (e.g. just the main concepts). Then go back and study each topic with more detail (e.g. the major theories; key models, rules or facts). Finally, if you have enough time, go back and look at some extra details on each topic (e.g. debates about the theories; specific studies and their methodologies).

Finally, here are some tips which may help you study effectively:

  • It is possible to ‘cram’ a lot of information into your memory just before the exam, e.g. by memorising a list. However, this type of learning is only short-term, and may be forgotten within days. If you want your learning to last, try to make many connections and relationships between facts and ideas. For example, whenever you read or study, think about how the facts or ideas relate to other things you have read, or how you might use them in your future working life, and whether you disagree or agree with author's interpretations.
  • You can often greatly improve your understanding by discussing the concepts and information with someone else, such as another student in your course. Although it might take extra time to arrange this, it can often make your studying more effective in the end.

For more on this topic, see the links on the right...