Two small first aid bags lying on a white background.

First aid in exam situations

If you are afraid of not being able to pass an exam shortly before it is due, here are some tips and advice on how to stay confident in such a situation and make the best of it.

You will also find some more resources to help you cope well with your studies in the long run.

Social and psychological counseling

  • Psychological counseling at the University of Duisburg-Essen: In addition to psychological counseling provided by the ABZ as well as the Studierendenwerk, here you will also find information on Protestant life counseling and pastoral care as well as Catholic spiritual guidance.
  • The Studierendenwerk also provides advice on the topics of finances, studying with children and studying with disabilities, as well as international students.

Advice on all aspects of studying

A person behind a high stack of books

Third Exam Attempt

A third attempt is always an exceptional situation. This makes it all the more important that you tackle your third attempt in a focused and efficient manner. Here are resources and tips to help you study.


  • Know the framework. In some degree programs, it is possible to take an additional oral examination before or after the third attempt. You can find information about this in your respective examination regulations.
  • Contact the relevant chair at the beginning of the semester. Many chairs support examinees in the third attempt with advice and help you to prepare optimally.
  • Use the exam review to see where you made mistakes.
  • Attend all exercises, lectures or tutorials.
  • Ask for old exams and use them to check your level of knowledge.
  • Take advantage of additional services such as the LuDis (learn and discussion centers).
  • Learn together with fellow students and ask them specifically about their learning methods. In an exchange, gaps in your knowledge become much more visible.
  • Ask fellow students who have already passed this exam what helped them.
  • Research alternative learning opportunities on your own, e.g. explanatory videos or online courses. Attention: Never rely only on them, always check the accuracy of such material!
  • If you feel that you cannot understand the material on your own, ask fellow students for tutoring.

Study tips

  • Create a study plan early. Look at the material early and divide it up so that you still have enough buffer at the end to repeat everything again.
  • Study continuously. If you repeat the material over and over again over a period of weeks, you will memorize what you have learned much more firmly and it will be easier to recall in the exam situation. Start studying for your third attempt no later than the beginning of the semester.
  • Use mnemonic techniques against blackouts. The crazier or simpler, the more likely you are to be able to recall your mnemonic even during exam stress.
  • Focus on the third attempt. Other exams that are close to the exam date should be postponed - as much as possible. This is especially true if they are also exams that are difficult for you. Remember: studying one semester longer is better than not being allowed to continue your studies.

Prepare mentally

  • Find a suitable mental attitude to keep you motivated. This can be motivation to prove your abilities to yourself, a reward after passing (not writing!) an exam, or a way to make hated material interesting after all.
  • Visualize your success: Imagine again and again how you sit in the exam with a good feeling and how you succeed in it. Visualize this scene again and again as realistically as you can: What do you feel? What do you see? How do you feel about it? If you like, also visualize the moment when you turn in your exam feeling confident that you have passed. Work toward that goal and visualize your success when you lose motivation.
  • Critically question your attitude: if you are convinced that you will never be able to pass this event, you should first work on releasing your mental block. Psychological counseling centers can help you with this.
  • Critically question what was wrong with the previous two attempts and make sure that these problems do not affect you this time.
  • Only take the exam if you are sure you can pass it. Be honest with yourself. Don't lie to yourself just to get past the "third attempt" hurdle. 
Arm with shirt ticking answers on an exam sheet

Too much to learn and too little timeExam Phase

If you run out of time to study during the exam period, here are a few emergency tips on how to make the most of the time you have left.

Study smarter

  • Write a study plan. Yes, this will cost you a few minutes, but it will give you the chance to realistically assess what can still be done and what it's too late for. This way, you can use your time in a targeted manner and also see where you can take a break with a clear conscience.
  • Be realistic. If you notice that you hardly have a chance to study for all upcoming exams, it may be better to opt out of one exam instead of doing poorly all in all exams.
  • Use the Pareto principle. This states that we usually get 80% of the work done in 20% of the time, and the remaining 80% of the time is spent on the remaining 20% of the work. If you notice that time is running out, do only the first 80% for now and then turn to other tasks. If there is still time left, you can always make up the 20%.

Study methods for emergencies

  • Write a cheat sheet. And please do not take it with you to the exam. At home, however, it will help you focus on what you need to know immediately for the exam and not get lost in details.
  • "Eat the Frog". This productivity method is about setting a blocker in your productive time for tasks that are difficult for you, where you do nothing else. You choose such a "Frog" the night before - for example, it can be a difficult bill that you don't understand - and do it first thing in the morning, before you do anything else. This way you have already done the "worst", can feed off your success and have the rest of the day free for other tasks instead of pushing the "frog" in front of you.
  • For students in engineering, the course "Lernstrategien fördern - Denken in komplexen Zusammenhängen" is also offered. You can find the current course in the LSF.

Relaxation and Productivity

  • No one can be completely focused all day. Phases of tension (concentration) and relaxation must alternate in order to work efficiently. So take regular breaks, for example according to the Pomodoro technique: you work through 4x25 minutes of concentrated work with a five-minute break each, before taking a long break of 30 minutes.
  • Sleep is essential so that the brain can process what it has learned. Therefore, make sure you get enough sleep.
  • Exercise reduces stress hormones. Even a 15-minute walk will make you more focused and alert afterwards and prevent headaches and back pain.
Junger Mann hinter einem Tisch mit Laptop der in ein Mikro spricht

Presentations and Colloquia

Speaking in front of others costs many people an effort. Here you will find tips for a successful presentation and a confident appearance.

Designing successful presentations

  • Your slides are a support for your presentation, not the main point. Therefore, the slides should not distract from you.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Your slides should contain only bullet points, not full sentences. This way, you won't be tempted to read off and your audience won't get bored. Where possible, you can omit the text completely and use only an symbolic image instead.
  • Use the speaker mode of PowerPoint. This allows you to see the presentation notes on your laptop screen while the projector is running the presentation.
  • When presenting figures or analysis, convert them to charts so the message is quick and easy to grasp.
  • Place references as well as relevant info (e.g., study evaluation details) that no longer fit into the presentation behind the last official slide. This way, it can be referred back to if relevant questions arise. However, show this page as well as the sources only when prompted. A quick "Oh, and these are the references" will not get you anywhere and seems half-hearted.

Presenting with confidence

  • Create a good presentation as a basis and adapt it until it supports your presentation in a meaningful way - and does not distract you in the worst case.
  • Practice the final presentation over and over for several days. Record your talk with your smartphone to see where there is room for improvement.
  • If you are reluctant to speak in front of others, you can approach a public talk slowly: first record your talk on your smartphone, then ask friends or family to listen to you, and lastly present to the class or department chair.
  • If you don't know where to put your hands when presenting, get a presenter to be able to hold something while presenting more freely without having to stand next to your laptop. If you don't have a presenter, take a pen or roll yourself a tiny paper ball that you can hold unnoticed while presenting.
  • Practice sticking strictly to the time allotted. In most cases, your talk can be better three minutes too short than one minute too long.
    • Pro tip: When practicing, build "time markers" into your presentation ('I need five more minutes from slide 15.') and skippable slides ("I'll skip this slide because of time.").
  • Practice not only the presentation, but also the lead-in. For example, 'Thank you for taking the time to listen to the results of my thesis today as part of my colloquium. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. My topic is..." In this way, you gain confidence and don't put yourself out by suddenly standing in front and not knowing what to say.
Eine Frau, die vor einem Laptop sitzt.

Term Papers and Theses

Writing term papers and theses is not easy for everyone. Therefore, here are some helpful tips and resources within the university.


  • Here you will find tips for scientific work and advice on how to use the most common programs such as Word, Excel, LaTex, SPPS, R and Citavi.
  • The blank pages just don't want to fill up, you lose motivation or don't know what to do next? Why not visit the Schreibwerkstatt?
  • For students in the engineering sciences, the course "Wissenschaftliches Arbeiten: Recherche, Zusammenfassung, Überblick, Einordnung" is offered. You can find the current course in the LSF.

Efficient research

Appropriate research is the be-all and end-all of any term paper. The university library offers support.

  • To familiarize yourself with the university library, here you will find virtual tours, short tutorials and other information to help you find your way around.
  • In these tutorials you will learn how to find and use the appropriate research tools for your research area.
  • Still have questions about literature research? Here you can make an individual appointment (in German) to get advice from the staff of the Uni-Bib.
  • Under Kurzgesagt! you will find 30-minute lectures on a wide variety of topics related to research and term papers. New events take place on a regular basis. After each 30-minute presentation, which consists mainly of live demonstrations of the recommended research tools, there is also time for questions and exchange.
Eine Frau, die vor einem Laptop sitzt und etwas in ein Notizbuch notiert.

Learning to studyLearning Strategy Course

  • If you find it difficult to organize and learn the content of the events in a meaningful way or notice that you lack motivation, you will find tips and advice on working efficiently in the learning strategy course. You can easily go through this online and learn how to better organize your everyday learning.
  • You'll also find other practical tools to challenge and improve your learning habits.

Learning strategy checklist

The learning strategy checklist (German) helps you to find out which learning strategies you already use - perhaps unconsciously - and where you can still optimize your learning habits.

Learning Habits Questionnaire

The Learning Habits Questionnaire (German) provides you with a tool to quickly check whether you are taking advantage of all the opportunities to learn efficiently.

Learning Type Analysis

With the help of the learning type analysis (German), you can find out in just a few minutes which learning type you are and how you can learn most efficiently.