Ask a teacher: Exam tips from the YMCA Academy (working title)

About The YMCA Academy

The YMCA Academy is an alternative high school for students with learning disabilities and learning style differences. Our supportive learning environment and innovative teaching methods inspire students to reach their academic and personal potential. The Academy is a safe and welcoming space that embodies the YMCA core values of caring, health, honesty, inclusiveness, respect, and responsibility.

How to retain information


Customize HOW you study in a way that reflects the way you learn. If you are an interpersonal learner, for example, form a study group; if you are a visual learner, turn your notes into a diagram or chart.


Take a few minutes each day to review your notes, and ask yourself questions about what you’ve learned.  By the time test or assignment time arrives, you’ll have already reviewed your notes so many times that studying won’t be such a chore. A good analogy is learning song lyrics. You don’t sit down and memorize them, but learn them by listening to them over and over again.


Study in a quiet environment that is free from distractions (visual, acoustic, etc), unless you are a musical learner and need background noise to focus.


If you do need background noise, but music distracts you, try an ambient noise generator. There’s a great one called A Soft Murmur that lets you create your own custom mix of ten different ambient sounds, from rain and birds to a coffee shop and white noise from a TV.

 How to organize notes


Use the exam information your teacher gives you. Ask for a review package, study guide, or exam breakdown to anticipate potential exam questions and make sure you have the answers.

 Organize a “binder jam” with a couple of friends in the same class. Go through your notes page by page, and compare. If you were absent one day, or missed something for another reason, chances are one of your classmates has it.

How to calm down / manage anxiety

Just breathe! There’s a reason that people who have trouble sleeping are given oxygen masks. Taking a few deep breaths is very calming.


Always remember: Exams might be stressful, but they don’t last forever.


Don’t study the morning of, or moments before, a test or exam. If you come across something you don’t know, the anxiety can cause you to forget the things you do know which will further perpetuate feelings of anxiety

Who said that you must write a test in chronological order? Start where you are most comfortable and confident, and leave  the difficult parts for last.


Don’t spend more than a minute or two on a question. If you are not sure, move on and come back to it later. It is not worth spending 5-10 minutes on a question worth 5 marks when you could have answered 2-3 questions that are worth 20 marks combined.


Remind yourself that as long as you tried your best and put in effort beforehand to be as prepared as possible, that is all any can ask of you. If you are not successful, learn from your mistake and try to improve for the next time.