As September draws to a close, many University of Maine students have faced the unpleasant realization that exams are creeping up on us, fast. While nobody likes taking tests, they are essential to most college courses and therefore must be endured. But alas, here are 10 thoughtful tips on how to ace your first exams and start off this year right.

Go to class. While this may seem simple and obvious, it’s the most basic foundation to succeeding in a course. Most students contemplate dropping out when their alarm blares at 8 a.m., but push through it and make it to every class you can. Just attending and listening to the lecture will prepare you for homework, exams and eventually finals. Plus, it directly pertains to the next tip…

Take notes during lectures. While it’s much more tempting to doze off or browse Instagram or Facebook, taking the time to jot down the major points of each lecture will make all the difference when it comes to doing well on exams. Those notes will be life-saving materials to review for quizzes and tests.

Read the assigned material. Again, this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many students skip buying the book, let alone reading assigned chapters. Even if you wait until the night before, comprehending the reading will contribute to your overall comprehension of the material, positively influencing your grade.

Make flashcards. For exams that require memorization of definitions, equations or dates, flashcards are fundamental. You can buy them cheap and in bulk on Amazon or in the UMaine bookstore, and reuse them for cumulative finals.

Personalize study guides. If you are lucky and your professor provides study guides, definitely go through them and tailor them to your understanding of the material. If you are one of the unlucky souls that’s left to fend for yourself for exams, go the extra mile and construct your own study guides. Bree Belair, a third-year student, recommends: “Take the slides, notes or whatever you material you’ve covered, and make a study sheet. Take each point and turn it into a question, then study until you can answer every question.”

Utilize practice exams. If there are any practice exams offered, or past exams that you can review, that will be helpful in envisioning what the next exam will look like.

Inquire about the format of the exam. It makes a difference to know if you are preparing for multiple choice, short answer or essay questions. Make sure you hear from your professor how the exam will be styled, so you can tailor your studying to each exam.

Study with friends. Studying in groups can be very helpful in order to enjoy studying more while combining your shared knowledge with your peers. Be careful to not get too off topic, it can be really easy for a study session with friends to be purely social, so stay focused if you want to have a fulfilling session.

Ask for help if you need it. If you are really dreading an exam or can’t seem to come to terms with the material, reach out and utilize the resources at your disposal. Your professor is there to help, and there are tutors available with the UMaine Tutor Program at Fogler Library. Drop-in appointments for 100 and 200-level courses are offered free of charge.  

Get a good night’s sleep beforehand. Any senior can tell you, pulling all-nighters to study before exams is counterproductive. Feeling well-rested and focused for the exam will help you achieve your full potential and get the grade you want.

Taking exams is stressful and can be overwhelming, but as long as you put effort and forethought into preparing right, you’ll get accustomed to being tested and achieving the best possible outcomes for your courses.