How do I learn 3

7 tips on how to save your exam with last-minute study

You panic. You have a cold sweat on your forehead: Your exam is next week and you haven't done anything for it.

There are many reasons and excuses. But none of this will save you from having to sit in the lecture hall next week and have to deliver. Somehow you have to get all of the exam material in your head in the few days left. But don't worry, nothing is lost yet!

Because with the right strategy, you still have a good chance of getting out of the situation satisfied. I'll show you seven tips on how to save your exam even at the last minute.

Tip # 1: forgive yourself!

If you have to learn at the last minute and have run out of time, something has most likely gone wrong beforehand: Either you underestimated the subject matter, made mistakes in planning because you did not allow for enough time to study or simply dawdled too long.

No matter what exactly happened, it happened and you can't change it anymore. Don't fret about the current circumstances and instead forgive yourself for any mistakes you may have made. Because if you don't do that, you are wasting valuable energy in this stressful situation, which you could use much more meaningfully for learning.

Tip no. 2: Get an overview!

What do most students do when they don't have enough time to prepare for exams? Right, they just start learning. They don't think they are summing up the material and repeating it until they can reproduce some memorized scraps. They lapse into blind actionism. And this actionism breaks their necks in the test.

If you have little time to study, you must not fly blind. First of all, you have to get a precise overview of the exam-relevant learning material and orient yourself. It is important that you know what you are dealing with: Which chapters from the book are important? Which lecture slides were the focus? Which exercises are relevant? Because only then can you decide what is really important and which topics you can rather neglect.

Tip # 3: set priorities!

As soon as you have the necessary overview of your learning material and know what will be important in your exam, you have to sift as hard as you can. Set priorities and only care about the important things.

Your goal is to learn enough at the last minute to pass your exam as well as possible. Act accordingly and focus on the content that you need to pass your exam. Everything else is mercilessly deleted. This is the only way you have the best chance of properly preparing your exam, even at the last minute, and actually passing it at the end.

Tip # 4: make a plan!

You may think that for the one week that you have left to study, it is not worthwhile to set up a study plan. You are of the opinion that the best thing you can do with the materials you have now put together is to start learning straight away. Don't do that - never go haphazardly!

A plan gives you structure and orientation. And you can use exactly these two things in your situation, which is already very stressful in itself. So make a lesson plan for the remaining days. Make a note of when you want to learn and work through which content. Get down to business during the day and use the evening hours to review definitions, formulas and other material. At the end of the day, leave yourself a bit of a buffer, even if it probably won't be particularly extensive.

Tip # 5: find allies!

Allies are always good. And especially in your situation, you can use any help. For example, ask your fellow students whether they can help you out with a good summary of the subject matter. Perhaps one or the other has already worked on practice exams and can provide you with solutions with which you can quickly control yourself. There may also be fellow students who were in the same situation as you and can give you good tips.

Of course, you can also get more professional help from your professor or his / her chair staff. After all, they know the exam best and can certainly give you good tips on last-minute preparation. Of course, it depends a little on the accessibility of the professor and assistant, but if you ask for specific information politely and reasonably, you have a good chance of receiving little hints.

Tip # 6: learn more slowly!

Yes, you don't have a lot of time and yes, you have to learn a lot in this time. But it doesn't help if you rush through the content. If you race from one exercise to the next without a point or comma, just skim through definitions due to time constraints and do not give yourself time to think about solutions and possible solutions, at the end of the exam you will not know anything.

So take a moment. Limit yourself to the most important things and give yourself enough time to understand this central content or to be able to reproduce it correctly - depending on what is required. The same applies to your exam preparation: if you are in a hurry, go slowly.

Tip no. 7: change your expectations!

You don't have much time to study for your next exam. And to avoid disappointment, you should align your expectations with this fact. Because it will probably not be possible for you to achieve a top grade with your low study workload.

So instead of putting yourself under additional pressure that inhibits your learning and additionally shortens your learning time, you should realistically adjust your expectations to your conditions. What is realistic, of course, depends on you and the respective exam. I would start with "existence".

Bonus tip: sleep!

There is one thing that you should not forget despite the stressful exam preparation: your sleep. It's okay - maybe a must - not to oversleep nine hours during your last-minute study period. However, it would be a fatal mistake to sit at your desk every day completely exhausted or, in the worst case, to go to the exam half asleep.

Getting enough sleep is important to keep you healthy and receptive to study. Therefore, allow yourself the sleep you need to be focused on what you are doing. Your brain also has to sleep in order to process and consolidate the things you have learned over the day.


With the right strategy, a positive attitude, and a smart plan, a last-minute study period won't bring you to your knees.

But to keep your sweats within limits, you have to be purposeful. Keep calm, determine your most important learning content, draw up a learning plan and set wise priorities. Do not be afraid to ask fellow students or lecturers for help and adapt your expectations to the real conditions. Learn more slowly - but more sustainably - and make sure you get enough sleep.

If you stick to these tips, your panic will go away, you will keep a cool head and have a realistic chance of passing your exam at the last minute.