The dreaded finals season is back. You’re probably juggling studying for cumulative exams for different classes, losing sleep and drinking way too much caffeine. 

If you are taking a Chinese class this semester, I’ve got the tips to help you get an A. 

But before I get to the tips — and this may seem obvious — but please ask your teacher what the format the exam is in and what topics will be on it.

  1. 1 Teamwork


    If you haven’t talked to a single classmate prior to the exam, now is the time. Find the smartest students/the ones who participate the most and attach yourself to them.

    To let them know you’re serious, share a Google Doc that has all the topics labeled. Add some notes already on it. This lets them know that you are prepared and will contribute.

    This tip depends on collaborators that will actually contribute so choose wisely!

  2. 2 The Doc is finished.


    Once the Doc has all the notes compiled, it’s time to break out the pen and paper. 

    For short answer questions, draft possible responses to questions your professor might ask. Or if your professor provides sample questions, draft responses to those. 

    One method I use to memorize characters is to write the same character at least four times. 

    Another tip is to remember how to write at least two to five topic-specific vocab words for responses. 

    For example, this semester my Chinese class was about Chinese culture and etiquette. For the gift-giving lesson, I would practice writing 礼尚往来(lǐshàngwǎnglái, the practice of giving gifts to people who have previously given you a gift), 成双成对 (chéng shuāng chéng duì, even number gifts/gifts in pairs are better), etc. and use those for responses. 

  3. 3 Practice old characters.


    When I spend too much time learning new vocab, I often forget old vocab. In my last exam, I remembered how to write 驾崩 (jià bēng, death of royalty) but forgot how to write 笑 (xiào, laugh). 

    It’s great that I know how to write a higher level word. But not remembering how to write a basic character threw me for a loop while taking the exam.

    Take the time to write “basic” verbs, colors and nouns that you might use in your responses. 

  4. 4 Timing & Studying


    I feel the most prepared when I have at least a week to study for my exams. This time frame includes time to finish the Google Doc. I recommend dedicating one to three days to getting the doc ready. Then practicing writing for the last four days.

    Ideally, you should study for at least an hour every day. But some people, like myself, have really short attention spans so multiple small study sessions work well too. 

    If you are feeling really tired, take a break. Pushing yourself makes you tired and makes you lose focus. Go eat a snack, look at your phone, do a little stretch, etc. 

    Before I go to bed, I like to review the notes I’ve written out. I feel like I remember the material better this way.

    Lastly, remember to drink water when you study. You will think more clearly and be more focused

    Good luck with all your exams and remember to write legibly!


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Vivien Cheng

Vivien Cheng is a student pursuing a B.A. in Mandarin and a minor in international relations. She hopes to aid in policy-making.
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