How do you prepare for exams?

Following academic university education means I have to read a considerable amount of (academic) texts each week and have to memorize all of it for my final exams. Depending on the course itself, the faculty, and the university program, the workload per course can vary tremendously. Studying and remembering the content of each text can be challenging as it is and following as many courses as I do can make it a daunting and nearly impossible task to keep up with all the reading and properly prepare for final exams.

My Problem(s)
No idea how to study – Usually, globally reading an article once was enough for me to grasp and memorize its key insights (mostly short-term). I, therefore, never actually had to study for anything in my life. Admittedly, I was also quite lazy and satisfied with just passing my classes. I had no motivation and would do the bare minimum. As a result, I had no idea how to study. When finally challenged and motivated, I failed drastically.

Using the wrong study methods – When I did start studying, I had no idea how or where to start. I would reread the same article multiple times, concentrate on every sentence equally, mark whole pages in stress-inducing neon-colors and spend whole days on grasping and truly mastering just one article. I would memorize the article perfectly, but this would leave me no time to read the rest, and I would fail yet again. Clearly, this approach did not work and I needed a more systematic approach or method.

After rigorous internet research, following multiple blogs, reading study tips from universities worldwide and having tested multiple tips and tricks I finally came up with a method that worked for me. A method I started calling QISALE. An acronym of the 6 studying steps it involves.

  • Q – Quick Reading

  • I – Intensive Reading

  • S – Summarize
  • A – Abstract from Summary

  • L – Learning Map Entry

  • E – Exam Preparation

All 6 steps have their own color-code assigned to them, according to my traffic-light priority model explained here. Quick and Intensive reading are red (*), Summary and Abstract are orange (**), Learning Entry and Exam preparation are green (***).

The QISALE Method Explained.

Quick Reading – This step marks day 1 of learning. What is it ? …. 15 pages 25 minutes or 1 pomodori block, explained here. Scanning. Depending on the text you might be able to scan faster. Goal: … This is part of the Educate phase. En is both Grey and Red in the traffic light model because of minimum work. Answer these questions: What does the author say? How does he substantiate his arguments? Try making ‘logic’ or ‘argument’ codes. See here (link to blog)

Intensive Reading – This step the next day or the day after. Reading again, this time more intensive and 7-10 pages 25 minutes. Makes notes while reading. Dont summarize. Just key insights and methods mentioned. If you find it hard to decide what to write down, try to use 3-5 words to describe main points of each paragraph. Practice learning to recognize key insights – here. (link to blogpost) This is Educate, and Red

Summarize – Based on the quick notes you now summarize the article. You use your quick notes and only use the article after to fill in missing information. And look up what you misunderstood. While reading your quick notes, write down questions. Color orange + understand

Abstract – this is too…. how to write a good abstract.

Learning map entry – flashcards, how to make learning material, mockup exam etc.

Exam preperation – repeat revise.


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Q * I * S ** A ** L *** E ***
Day 1 Day 2 or 3 Day 5 Day 7 or 8 Day 10 Day 12 ~ till exam