As we head into the last few weeks of uni things might be feeling a little chaotic. There’s lectures that you haven’t watched, long assignments you’re still putting together, tests, and the scariest of them all – exams.
If that word makes you shudder or break out in a cold sweat, don’t worry. There’s still time to get on top of your workload and ace your exams.
We’ve been there before and we know that revision time can be tough, so here are our top five tips to get you through exam season – with minimal stress and (hopefully) lots of success.
- PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
We get it – looking at the mountain of revision that piles up for each subject may make you want to give up entirely. But before you settle in for a lengthy Netflix procrasti-thon try this trick: break down that pile of study into smaller sections and you’ll be surprised at how much more achievable it becomes. Grab a calendar and some highlighters and make yourself a day-by-day revision plan. Set goals and deadlines for when you want to have certain modules completed – and make sure you schedule in some down time to give your brain a break. When you have a plan that’s scheduled around your other commitments, you’ll get a more rational sense of what you can get done – and it will feel less overwhelming and more achievable.
- Reward yourself with study breaks
Sitting in front of a screen watching all of those lectures you need to catch up on isn’t much fun – and it’s not really effective either. If you overload your brain, it’s less likely you’ll retain all of that information, which makes taking study breaks so important. Taking breaks between study is actually a lot more productive than trying to do it all at once. It also nixes the urge to procrastinate because you know you’ll only have to be switched on for a certain amount of time before you can take a scheduled break. Going for a short walk or grabbing a bite to eat/drink will refresh your mindset, so you’ll come back ready to learn. If it helps – set a timer to remind you when it’s time to pause and relax.
- Study the practice exam
You know those practice exams that professors attach to the end of the module? They’re pure GOLD. They’re practically giving you the answers – so print them out, set a timer for however long your official exam is, and give it a go. It’ll help you understand the language that’s going to be used, and the attached answer sheet will help you work out what they’re actually asking of you. Plus, most of the time teachers will mimic the structure of the practice exam to reward the people who took the time to do it. It also helps you find the gaps in your knowledge. Don’t know how to complete one of the practice exam questions? Take a look at the answer and work backwards to see if you can figure it out – and if not, go back to the books or lectures to swot up on the areas you’re struggling with. Not only will these exams help you revise more efficiently, they’ll also give you an inside view into the questions and processes expected so you can start the exam with the confidence of familiarity.
- Make cue cards
Planning to revise by re-reading the lecture slides? It might not be the most effective way to cover a lot of content in a short revision period. A better, tried and tested way is to use cue cards. Write down a question or prompt, then write the answer on the back – you can even put them on coloured card if you like things to look pretty. Incorporate the practice questions from tip three above for some top tier cue cards. Once you’ve written them all out, start going through them to see which ones you already know. Make a “know” and “don’t know” pile and put the cards down accordingly. Keep going through only the “don’t know” pile – because there’s no use revising content you already know. You’ll feel motivated by how big the “know” pile becomes and you’ll be able to see a physical representation of your progress. By the end of it, you’ll be able to do it so fast it’ll feel like you’re playing a game.
- Test your mate
Once you’ve got the information down pat, meet up with a mate doing the same exam. They’ll make sure you don’t feel alone and they’ll be able to explain to you the parts you don’t understand – and you can do the same for them. Explaining content to someone else in your own words has proven to be one of the best techniques of understanding something. You’ll want to take your cue cards from tip four and use them to test each other. This is the next level up from doing it in your head where you have the comfort of getting it wrong. Once you can memorise content in front of someone with no prompt, you’re ready to go.
On the day of the exam, don’t do any study. Just take a deep breath, listen to some happy music and remind yourself that they’re not the end of the world! Exam season has the potential to make or break students, but with these five tips – you’ll be set to conquer whatever’s on your paper.
It’s always comforting to remember that our student advisors can lend a hand whenever you need some extra support. You can contact them here.