Exams can be a daunting prospect. At the end of the busy semester, even after you have handed in your assignments, they still loom overhead. However, they needn’t be a time of high drama and pressure if you plan appropriately.
The following tips will help you to approach your exams with confidence and extra focus.
- Don’t leave it until the last minute: While for some people find they can thrive in exams on a last minute “cram” session, for most of us it doesn’t really work. Determine when and how many exams you have coming up and plan a study timetable around them. Some exams may need more study time, especially if you’re not feeling that confident about the subject, so factor that in until you get the balance right.
- Organise your study space: Have you got enough room to spread out all your resources and textbooks? Have you got enough light and airflow? Are potential distractions out of sight? Make sure that your space is comfortable and allows you to focus. Think about what works for you and get it right before you begin studying (but don’t use it as an excuse to procrastinate!)
- Use daylight hours to study: 60 minutes of study during the day is equal to 90 minutes of study at night.
- Make notes and visual aids: Convert all your subject resources into useful notes and develop flow charts, mind maps, bullet points or diagrams. The best notes are summaries of key concepts AND are useful memory triggers for recall of the finer details.
- Talk out your answers to others: You are doing well if you are able to explain a concept that you are studying to someone who has little or no knowledge in the field. Find someone that you can talk about information to in conversation and then use this conversation to recall required concepts in the exam.
- Have a practice run: Download a past paper for the subject and sit a practice exam. Schedule it within your study timetable and ensure you will not be disturbed. Create ‘exam conditions’ by turning off your phone and removing your study resources from the area. The practice exam will give you a clear sense of your pace, as well as any weak areas. Use your results to focus your study.
- Take regular breaks: While you may think it is better to study for long periods of time, it is actually counterproductive and can affect your ability to retain information in the long term. Study in blocks of 45 minutes within the hour with 15 minutes of active relaxation. Go for a quick walk, make a cuppa or chat to a friend rather than watch TV or surf the net. Your brain will thank you for it.
- Study smarter, instead of harder: Determine the types of exams that you will be sitting for each subject (essay form, multiple choice, practical, short answer) and prepare accordingly so that you are confident on the day for the type of exam you know you’ll face.
- Feed your brain: Try to steer clear of the junk food and eat nutritious foods, like fish, nuts, fruits and seeds, which will keep your brain and body fuelled. This also goes for exam day. Even if you feel sick, try to have a good healthy breakfast with foods which will provide you with a slow release of energy. You don’t want a sugar crash one hour into a 3 hour exam and fall asleep at your desk. Also drink plenty of water.
- Plan your exam day: Make sure you know where you are going for the exam before the day. Plan your route and journey time and if possible do a test run so you can take into account any potential traffic delays. Work out how long it will take you to get there, and then add on some more time. It’s better to be early and relaxed than late and frazzled. Use reading time to plan which areas you will work on first and complete areas you find easiest at the start. Keep track of time during the exam. If you find you are struggling with a question, move on and come back later if you have time. Something you write within another answer may give you a clue for tackling trickier section.