The following describes what I would ideally do (and tried to do back when I was a student) to prepare for an exam. Different methods work for different people, and there's never time to do all that would be ideal to do, so if you are not doing what I describe below, don't panic!
A course will address various topics but usually give you only a passing acquaintance with each: a few lectures, some handouts, a tutorial discussion based on a rapidly read article or chapter. It's a good start, but an important point of revision is to go beyond this, to extend and tighten your grip on topics so as to enable you effectively, clearly, and rigorously to answer exam questions.
1. A SCHEDULE. Perhaps the first thing to do is to compile a realistic revision schedule. Bearing in mind what revision it would be good to do (see 2 below), when each exam is, whether some courses require more revision than others, what other commitments you have, and so forth, pencil into a calendar chunks of time for revising each course, and perhaps even for revising key topics within each course.
It is a good idea at this point to list for each course the main topics the course addressed.
Preparing a schedule like this can be frightening, since it can seem to reveal that you've more to do than there's time for, but -- as I said -- that is always true, and true for others, and planning (quickly!) will enable you to make best use of what time you have. Don't panic!
2. READING and ENGAGEMENT. Here are some thoughts about what revising a topic might involve:
(a) If there's time, and a need, read more. Consult the course reading list and if necessary the lecturer to decide what it would be most useful to read in the time available, and then draw up a schedule for yourself.
(b) But, crucially, avoid revising only passively. Avoid, that is, simply re-reading handouts, notes, essays, and even the wider literature. In addition to reading, and taking notes, you need to somehow engage with your revision materials. This might involve all sorts of things:
For me, grappling with the issues also involves (when I'm sure the men in white coats aren't around) walking around my room, engaging aloud in a conversation with myself on the issue at hand: "The attribute dualist will surely argue ... But then a materialist is surely going to come back and say ... But, if so, then the dualist will claim that a distinction has been missed between ...", and so on. Once I'm done, I note down and incorporate into my topic maps such useful moves or formulations that emerged.
3. EXAM ADVICE. As for how to approach the exam itself, see Adam Rieger's pointers on the department site. Since exam answers are simply essays (albeit usually less polished than coursework essays) it might be worth glancing at some essay-writing advice here and here.
4. GET ON WITH IT! Don't spend all your time reading advice like this. Once you've got a schedule, take yourself to the library or wherever you work best, and get on with it!
Best of luck!
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