Five Tips for Exam Success

Socheata Ly
Cambodian Education Forum
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
January 30, 2021

As students, we are regularly tested for our knowledge. We are required to take many exams, from the minor ones such as quizzes and midterm exams to those major ones that determine our fate, like entrance exams and final exams. Failing exams is never a pleasant thing to experience, and we all want to avoid that. However, not everyone knows how to better prepare themselves for exams. This article suggests some essential tips students can use to successfully get through exams.

First, to sufficiently prepare ourselves for upcoming exams, it is important to start the revision process as early as possible.  We should note down how many exams we will have and what lessons we need to revise, and then we can start organizing our study schedule (Humanitas University, 2017). Early revision is very beneficial for effective exam preparation. We would have enough time to go through notes and other crucial study materials diligently without having to feel rushed, helping to reduce the amount of stress we face (Rogers, 2020). Leaving everything until the last minute is never a promising approach for exam preparation as it would do more harm than good and make things even messier to manage (Humanitas University, 2017).

Second, setting a clear study routine for ourselves as well as organizing our study space can enhance our comprehension and absorption of knowledge needed for exams (Humanitas University, 2017). It would be great to keep our study space tidy and spacious and stay away from anything that can distract or sidetrack our focus, such as phones and loud music (Busch, 2016). Making ourselves comfortable in our study space can also help us concentrate better on revision (Humanitas University, 2017). Moreover, being able to manage our study schedule well can contribute to productive study outcomes as well. According to Kearns and Gardiner (2007), successful study habits and strategies are attributed to good time management. From my personal experience, sticking to scheduled study patterns with specific goals for each review session, plus keeping myself motivated during the revision, could help me learn more effectively.

Third, taking a regular break during the revision could help our brain to maintain the ability to focus (Humanitas University, 2017). Studying for long hours without a break is not the way to go since our memory would deteriorate from trying to memorize and understand too much information at once. A study by Ariga and Lleras (2011) showed that short breaks from a task could drastically increase one’s ability to concentrate on that task for much longer. In the study, the participants were asked to perform a 50-minute task. As a result, for many of those who worked on the task nonstop, their performance dramatically dropped over time. On the other hand, there was no decline in the performance of those who were allowed to have two short breaks from the task.

Fourth, organizing study groups can be useful in helping us to prepare for exams (Humanitas University, 2017). Group studies are great for exchanging knowledge and helping each other learn. Chiriac’s (2014) study of 210 university students found that 97% of them acknowledged that working in groups promoted learning, either in collaborative abilities, academic knowledge, or both. They also stated that they could learn many things when working in groups than working individually. Similarly, Petress (2004) claimed that group study could enhance students’ intellectual abilities when conducted efficiently as it could inspire interest and raise confidence. For me, studying in groups was beneficial when I was preparing for exams in high school and at university. One of the benefits was that I could ask someone to explain the points I did not understand and share what I understood with others, which helped me remember better.

Lastly, it is a good idea to find and practice past exams if possible (Humanitas University, 2017). This method has been used by many Cambodian teachers to prepare their students for major exams, especially for Grade 9 and 12 national examinations. Students are given exams from previous years to practice, which could help them understand the general format of the exams and figure out what to focus on during the revision. From my own experience, this method did help me in several ways. For example, I was able to familiarize myself with the exam format and learn how to divide time for each section based on the level of difficulty and scores given. Jain (2013) explained that many examiners do not usually come up with different question types every year, so once we have practiced several past exams, there are good possibilities that we would be familiar with some questions in the exam papers.

To sum up, the tips mentioned above could turn out to be useful for those who are preparing for any upcoming exams. Nonetheless, it would be even better to figure out what methods and study patterns work best for us. Preparing for exams can be a time-consuming and exhausting process, but if we try our best to study with proper and effective methods, the outcome will be worth every effort. It is also necessary to take care of our health to ensure that it is in good condition so that we could perform to the fullest of our potential and abilities during exams.


Ariga, A., & Lleras, A. (2011). Brief and rare mental ‘‘breaks’’ keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements. Cognition, 118(3), 439-443.

Busch, B. (2016, April 19). The science of revision: nine ways pupils can revise for exams more effectively. The Guardian.

Chiriac, E. H. (2014). Group work as an incentive for learning – students’ experiences of group work. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1-10.

Humanitas University. (2017, January 30). 10 quick tips for successful exam preparation. Humanitas University.

Jain, S. (2013, April 17). Top 10 revision tips for your final (or first-year) exams. The Independent.

Kearns, H., & Gardiner, M. (2007). Is it time well spent? The relationship between time management behaviours, perceived effectiveness and work‐related morale and distress in a university context. Higher Education Research & Development, 26(2), 235-237.

Petress, K. C. (2004). The benefits of group study. Education, 124(4), 587-589.

Rogers, S. (2020, March 19). How to revise for exams: Top tips. Complete University Guide. 

The Author

Socheata Ly is an intern at Cambodia Education Forum. She has recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the Department of International Studies, the Institute of Foreign Languages, Royal University of Phnom Penh.

Cambodian Education Forum (CEF)  

CEF accepts no responsibility for facts presented and views expressed.   
Responsibility rests solely with the individual authors.  

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