By Kalindi Cordero
Resident Assistant
Maple Hill East


In comparison to high school, many college freshmen are not prepared for their first exams. No matter what you do, preparing for success will be difficult.

But no worries!

After you have taken your first college exam, it will get easier as you grow as a student.

With these tips, you will be a test superstar in no time. Here are some ways you can become a master in acing your first college exams.

1. Take Advantage of Office Hours

Many college freshmen don’t utilize office hours as much as they should. This is special time allocated for students to talk to their professors. Professors set aside time during the week for students to ask questions and get help on assignments.

Many professors wait for students to come introduce themselves or ask for help. Professors are humans just like you. They don’t bite! They want their students to succeed in and out of the classroom.

It’s important to build a relationship with your professors early on in the semester. If you go to office hours frequently, they will learn your face and name. Not only does this allow you to form relationships with your professors, it could mean getting a grade bumped up at the end of the semester because they know you are engaged in the class.

Go to office hours with questions and be eager to learn. They are there to help you!

2. How to Avoid Cramming

A very important piece of advice: Don’t cram! You may have been able to cram the night before an exam in high school, but this does not work in college. Cramming, or pulling an all-nighter, does not allow you to retain any information. In fact, it hinders your chance of doing well on an exam due to stress and lack of sleep.

Prep ahead of time by planning out when you are going to study during the week. Personally, I use a calendar with a monthly overview. This allows me to see a month-long overview of when my next exam will be and when I should start prepping. The earlier you start, the better you will do on the exam.

Be mindful to give yourself plenty of breaks while you study. Your brain needs a break from ingesting information every once in a while. Also, it is important to get a good night’s sleep the night before an exam.

I always go to bed early the night before, which allows me to wake up and review some last-minute items before my exam!

3. Form Study Groups

Getting a group of friends together to prepare before an exam is one of the best things you can do. Study groups teach you how to learn material quickly and acquire different study methods from friends. The best way to know if you understand a topic is to try explaining it to someone else. Teaching the material to your friends is beneficial to both of you!

You can also take advantage of academic resources on campus such as The Center for Learning and Success (CLASS+). It offers tutoring services, a writing center and student-led courses. You can even have your personal academic coach who can help you achieve your ideal GPA!

4. Don’t Panic!

This might be the hardest tip to remember and implement. I remember going into high-panic mode my freshman year around exam time. You can avoid panicking by preparing sufficiently ahead of time and knowing your exam schedule. 

You are the only person who knows your study habits and how much time you need to prepare.

Additionally, it’s important to read the syllabus to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything. For example, make sure you know if you need a Scantron form or a “blue book” for your first exam. Certain classes require different types of test forms, so it’s a good idea to review that information in the syllabus or visit your professors during their office hours to clarify.

Good Luck!

Hopefully these tips help you to succeed on your first college exams. College exams become easier as time goes on. Remember to take advantage of office hours, avoid cramming, form study groups and give yourself breaks. Good luck!