Creating a cheat sheet for a test is a variation on the "open book" style exam some teachers prefer to administer. Cheat sheets relieve student anxieties about taking the test, and cleverly encourage the student to study class material by placing the student in the position of an editor deciding what should be included in the limited space available. Several tools and strategies exist for creating and making the most of a cheat sheet.


Review class notes and relevant portions of your textbook. Decide what material is worth recording on the cheat sheet by asking yourself if you are likely to remember the information if it is not included. Complex information containing symbols, numbers or multiple steps such as mathematical formulas and chemical equations should be added to the sheet. Historical dates and place names are also good candidates for inclusion.

Obtain the correct size of paper as specified by the teacher. Some might allow the use of an 8.5-inch by 11-inch sheet of paper, for example, while others might permit a 3-inch by 5-inch note card. Refer to your class syllabus or any assignment handouts for details.

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Use a fine ballpoint pen to transfer the information from your notes and textbook to the sheet. Write neatly enough that you will be able to read it again later. Avoid using a pencil to add information to the cheat sheet, since smudging is more likely to result. Take advantage of all the "white space" on the sheet to maximize the amount of material you can fit into the area available.


  • Avoid the temptation to use a word processing program set to the smallest font setting to place material on the cheat sheet. SUNY Buffalo's William J. Rapaport recommends to his students that they rewrite their notes as an active study method. Writing by hand helps you learn the material better and will later help you locate specific pieces of information more quickly during the test.


  • Professor Jennifer Barson of Spokane Falls Community College suggests creating the cheat sheet at least two days before the test. The cheat sheet is as much a study aid as it is a test-taking tool.

Things Needed

  • Class notes
  • Textbook
  • Fine ballpoint pen
  • Paper

About the Author

A resident of Greenville, South Carolina, Paul Fallavollita began his writing career over 15 years ago. Fallavollita's articles have appeared at Moleskinerie, Ether Zone, The American Partisan, Spintech and Enter Stage Right. Fallavollita earned his Master of Arts degree in political science from Purdue University.