How to study for examinations | Sunday Observer

How to study for examinations

5 February, 2023

Around six months ago, I finished my Cambridge Ordinary Levels. Although I passed with flying colours, the journey to get to that point wasn’t exactly a smooth ride. If anything, it was like trying to snowboard down a sand dune. Sure, I got to my intended destination, but with a very scratched up snowboard. There are some things I did and some things I wish I had done, and I hope anyone who reads this finds it helpful.

Stop procrastinating

This was my biggest flaw. I spent so much time worrying about what I should do and what grades I might get instead of using that time to be productive. I was so stressed that I couldn’t even focus on studying, and I had to spend the final two months cramming all the content into my head.

Start early at a constant pace, and don’t overwork yourself. Consistency reigns supreme over hardcore study sessions. Studying two hours a day for three days is better than studying six hours in a row, and this can be best achieved with a timetable.

I cannot stress enough how bad overworking is. It’s worse than not working enough because it renders whatever knowledge you actually did learn useless due to fatigue.

Dont trust teachers

That might sound a bit too harsh, but teachers are human beings too. They aren’t perfect robots that have every inch of the syllabus memorized. Take their word to a certain degree, but not completely. Although my teachers were pretty great, I stumbled upon lots of missed topics when I cross-referenced their notes with the syllabus content. You have to study those yourself to make sure you have a 100% understanding of everything you need to know.

Go through the syllabus by yourself. I don’t mean skim through it at a breakneck pace. Take an hour or two to slowly read through your syllabus to figure out what you’ve learned so far, what you’ve missed, and what you need to learn. Jot these down in an organised manner and mark them off once you’ve reached that point.

Reward yourself

Studying is such a boring task and I don’t think anyone is going to deny that. Therefore, give yourself something to look forward to after work. For example, after I was done studying for a day, I would sit down and watch a movie I’ve been meaning to watch, or play a game I’ve been eagerly anticipating. This concept allowed me to sit through hours and hours of studying because I had something fun to look forward to.

Having something at the end of the line makes the long and gruelling process of studying much easier to get through. Take it from someone with experience.

Summarize your notes

The notes provided by your teachers are wonderfully constructed but writing them in your own words makes them easier to memorize. It’s a bit time-consuming, so I only recommend this if you start really early. Once you’ve completely summarized every single note, I highly suggest ditching your teacher’s notes and using yours.

Get proper sleep

NEVER attempt all-nighters or staying past 12 midnight to study. It doesn’t help, and if anything it’ll make you less active the next day. This should be avoided at all costs and specially if you have an exam the following day. Try to study before midnight. Early morning was the best time for me, but that varies from person to person

Take breaks

Take occasional breaks to scroll around, drink some water, and snack, A sedentary lifestyle is not healthy, and tapping away on your computer for too long might increase the risk of Carpal Tunnel syndrome. Stretch your wrists every now and then, and follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for around 20 seconds. This prevents your eyes from drying out and twitching.

If you need to constantly read something for your exam, try to print it out instead of reading it via a screen. This process is much easier for your eyes to handle, and will overall increase your output efficiency.


Sitting and studying for long periods of time leads to significant weight gain. I personally gained over 10kg during my exam period and trust me when I say it is neither fun nor easy losing weight. Losing weight sounds easy on paper but the mental hurdle is extremely hard to overcome.

The bare minimum should be cycling/running 30 minutes per day.

Exercise also directly influences better sleep, which in turn positively affects cognitive abilities.

Stop comparing yourself to others

Some people are just smarter than you. It’s a harsh lesson you have to learn at some point. You might study for multiple hours a day for a month and there will still be someone who gets a better grade with minimum effort on their end. You need to stop comparing yourself with other people and focus on your goals. It doesn’t matter what other people are capable of, because at the end of the day, the only person that should matter to you is yourself.


I’m not saying you’re guaranteed an amazing grade by just following what I’ve listed. However, some of it will certainly improve your life in general, which could or could not improve your grades. There are lots of other ways to prepare for exams excluding what I’ve told you, and my methods might not suit everybody, so do proper research before you dedicate your time to a specific schedule.