Exam preparation: The 15 best tips for students

Written by Christina Pichler, Oct 07, 2022

Preparing for exams is an essential part of studying. There are many things to keep in mind. It’s especially important to know which learning style works best for you and at what time you study efficiently, since these two factors influence the ideal study strategy and method. We have important information and advice in this article. Furthermore, we have 15 tips for the ideal exam preparation, so nothing can go wrong!

The 15 best tips for exam preparation

1. Plan your semester

In contrast to school with its fixed requirements and rules, university focuses on autonomous organisation. You need to adapt to these new rules quickly. Therefore, be open to reach out to counselling centres, take advantage of the offers by the Austrian Student Representation and other counselling centres at university. In short: Inform yourself beforehand about the upcoming semester. This makes planning easier and helps during stressful exam periods.

2. Connect

For successful studying, you need social connections. This means that you need to make as many new acquaintances as possible. Most universities offer tutorials, which allow you to get in touch with peers and colleagues. The Austrian Student Representation can help you with several offers.

3. Time management

Make a study plan that helps you study continuously. Take into consideration that it’s not enough to just be physically present at lectures; you need to prepare and revise! Just try different approaches. If your plan doesn’t work out, then change it up until it works. You need to estimate your workload realistically!

4. Motivation

All these study tips are useless if you have lost motivation for your studies along the way. To prevent this from happening, you should keep in mind what you have already achieved and find out what motivates and drives you to achieve your future goals. It is important that you find your individual “tools for motivation“.

Here you find more tips for more motivation in your studies!

5. Effective studying

We have two valuable tips from interesting studies for you:

Highlighters are not effective! Studies have shown that you do not challenge your brain if you only read the material and highlight it. Simply underlining a few words won’t get it to absorb that information; the signal sent is just too weak. Therefore, take notes, which is more effective.

Rereading does not lead to successful learning! Again, you are sending too weak a stimulus to your brain. It does not recognize that it is important information, even if it is marked so beautifully! In the end, however, important information does not necessarily stick. Try to repeat what you have read in your own words, this has a bigger effect on your brain.

Here is a full article on effective studying!

6. Study environment

It’s obvious that the right environment plays a big role in your learning success. Places with lots of distractions and noise are not ideal. So consider these three simple factors that are key to effective studying: daylight, fresh air, and quiet. Most STUWO dormitories offer you just that: light-filled rooms with spacious desks and ample room. Some of our dormitories also have learning lounges so that you can focus on studying.

7. Study breaks

When studying, you should never forget to take regular breaks! This way you study more effectively and don’t run the risk of being completely exhausted during the exam. Therefore, leave your desk often, go for short walks in the fresh air and move your body so that it is well supplied with oxygen.

Here you can find more ideas and tips for effective and useful study breaks!

8. Brain food

An old Latin proverb says “plenus venter non studet libenter”, i.e. a full stomach doesn’t like to study, but it doesn’t work on a completely empty stomach either. Make sure you have several small, nutritious snacks like fruits, vegetables or nuts. Moreover, even if you’ve heard it before, don’t forget to drink plenty of water! Staying hydrated is essential for your concentration.

9. Study material

Keep your study plan up to date and always make sure that all your study materials are complete and correct. Moreover, that doesn’t just apply to your notes and scripts; you should also always have the necessary books, pens and paper, etc. to hand.

Isabella from Graz: “For my studies, there is a Facebook group where other students share notes, old questions, scripts, etc. I always find helpful materials there to prepare for the exam.”

10. Music for concentration

In fact, music can help you concentrate if it’s at the right tempo. Taboo is anything that excites or distracts you. Chill-out music and concentration music are well suited. We have created a playlist that is perfect for studying!

11. Study groups

In study groups, you stay motivated and work on the material with other colleagues in different ways. You can quiz each other, share your knowledge, or even do mock exams. This makes it easier for you to follow your study plan and be prepared for the exam.

Jakob from Linz: “I’m in a study group with two fellow students. Since we have several courses in common, we can help each other and prepare for the exam. We also motivate each other to study regularly.”

Here are some tips for you on how to succeed in online group work!

12. Summaries

The exam material will not only be less, but also clearer and easier to understand if you summarize it. All formats are available to you for this purpose: excerpts, mind maps, timelines, formulas, etc. It is important that you do this in your own words and not just copy it.

13. Find your learning strategy

Roughly divided, there are three learning strategies: Repeat, Organize, and Elaborate. For repetition, for example, you can make flashcards or think up and come up with mnemonic phrases, and then repeat them aloud. Organizing strategies include summaries, study posters, and specialized word collections to make the material clearer. To elaborate, you can apply the content to everyday situations or connect it to content from other lectures.

14. Try study methods

Depending on your learning type and strategy, you can try different learning methods to find out which ones work best. Repeat, organize and deepen your knowledge!

15. Set goals

Your perseverance and motivation will increase if you know what you’re working toward. What exams do you want to take this semester? What grades do you want to get on them? How can you achieve this? With the SMART method, you will definitely reach these goals! Stay realistic and set several small goals instead of just one big one!

But not only the tips just mentioned will help you to learn successfully, also the choice of the perfect study time for you, as well as the knowledge which learning type you are and which study method suits you best. We will now tell you how you can find this out:

The best time for studying

Are you an early bird or night owl? This will influence the ideal time for studying.

We recommend this cycle for early birds:

  • 8am-12am: Creativity and concentration are on a high. The perfect time to study, solve problems, organise your semester, etc.
  • 12am-3pm: Concentration and your brain’s performance decline. Time for lunch break!
  • 3pm-6pm: Your brain is at full blast. Another study session is in order!

Night owls will prefer this cycle:

  • 10am-1pm: Your brain works creatively and can process information well. Time for a study session!
  • 1pm-3pm: Your brain’s performance decreases. Take a break!
  • 6pm-10pm: Concentration increases and studying is easier. Take advantage of this time for another study session!

Types of learner & study methods

Every person learns differently and you can study most effectively if you know your individual study type. So, here is an overview of the different types of learners and study methods.

Types of learnersStudy methodsExamples
The auditory learner memorises content quickly when he hears them repeatedly.Reading aloud, rhythmic, presentations…Podcasts, recorded lectures, explanation videos, audio recordings…
The visual learner learns the quickest when reading the content and seeing the content.Loci method, SQR3, flashcards…Summaries, mind maps, sketches illustrations, videos…
The motoric learner memorises information by connecting them to movement.Location method, role-play, experiments…Modulation, memory cards, experiments, writing by hand, walking and studying…
The communicative learner studies best by taking part in discussions and debates, etc.Self-talks, tandem, quizzes…Discussions, study groups, Q&A, debates with peers, tutorials…


How do I create a study plan?

First, get a clear overview of all the material and get all the books, notes, etc. Then decide which chapters or subjects are imperial. Set yourself goals and reward yourself. Then plan your study sessions.

What helps against exam anxiety?

Take some conscious breaths, relax your muscles, listen to your favourite music, get some fresh air or meditate. Do you want more information on this topic? Here is an article full of tips against exam anxiety!

When can the brain process the most information?

Concentration and brain performance depend on your biological or circadian cycle. If you are an early bird, you study best from 8am-12am and 3pm-5pm. Night owls study best from 10am-1pm and 6pm-10pm.

Exam periods can be stressful; however, with the right exam preparation you’ll remain calm. In our category “student life” on our blog, you’ll find more tips for studying and exam preparation. We wish you a lot of success!


We are happy to help!