Updated: Jan 23, 2020
Oh how the time flies! It seemed like it was only yesterday that I was writing a blog on getting ready for the semester, and for most of my students Semester 2 is coming to an end and everyone is preparing themselves for the upcoming exam period.
For some, you will be confident heading into your exams. You might be thinking, 'just another exam, same old same old'. For others, it could be a brand new experience where you feel hopelessly overwhelmed about your imagined 'impending doom'. Regardless of how you feel, please know that your reactions and emotions are normal, and that I hope this blog post contains a few helpful ideas for everyone, regardless of where you are at with your studies. I would also like to mention that some of the tips and techniques below are contained in some of my older blog posts, so please feel free to have a browse.
The biggest tip I would like to share would be to create a study plan, factoring in all your commitments, such as work and family, and put in all your exam dates so you know how to prioritise your study.
I have been hearing from some of my students that up until now, very few students are aware of the importance of repetition. Repetition is something I have found very helpful when trying to absorb large amounts of information. Some students have said this method is a bad way of learning. Well, I would like to change it up a little. When you're writing out your summaries, whether it be summaries of the textbook or cases (for the law students out there), each time you re-write your notes, attempt to add another sentence of detail or another dot-point under a heading. After several repetitive attempts you will most likely have a significantly larger summary with information you have revised. This tip is especially helpful for those who have 'closed-book' exams, where no additional resources can be brought into the exam with you. This leads to my next tip, and that is for all the information you revise and repeat, you must remain consistent with your revision. Once you have your summaries to a depth that you can revise comfortably and re-write when necessary, keep up that revision each day and be consistent.
Another great way to study is to explain concepts and principles to a friend, one who is preferably studying the same subject. This is also a great way to test each other on your knowledge, and discuss areas your need to revise further. Therefore, study groups (when productive) can be extremely effective for revising for an exam.
Considering all exams are done by hand - it's crucial you handwrite as much as you can in the lead up to your exams!
Organisation is key! Make sure all your subjects are divided clearly. Have all your notes and summaries organised by each topic, and make sure they're in the order they were taught throughout semester.
What to study & what to revise?
When deciding what you need to study, and what you should prioritise, it's always helpful to write a list of topics that are examinable, so you can cross them off as you go. This list can also give you an indication on how much study is required so you can plan your study days. Practice questions and exams are also a really good way to prepare. Where you can complete the questions confidently, it is clear that you know that topic, and if you find a certain question hard, it's a good way to identify what you need to continue revising.
Always make summaries of your textbooks notes and lecture notes. Building on the tips mentioned above, once you have written your summaries, I always advise my students to print them off, then highlight the key notes within the summaries, and insert handwritten annotations. Also ensure you have answered all of the questions from tutorials/seminars, and for those studying law, make sure you have a pile of case summaries. For the students studying mathematics or science, mind-maps, diagrams and charts are also a great way to breakdown complex theories, algorithms and formulas.
Going beyond the books and learning the content, I will repeat some of my tips from previous posts. Make sure you're getting really good sleep. Make sure you have a decently dark enough room that the sun doesn't blast through your curtains each morning. Be consistent with when you go to bed each night. Also, make sure you're eating healthy, nutritious food, that can fuel your brain to work at optimal capacity. Foodmatters has some great ideas and recipes for healthy eating. Oh, and make sure you have a healthy breakfast to start your day!
It's also really important that you take regular breaks throughout the day (they don't have to be long breaks). Taking a break gives your brain a rest which helps the information you are learning and revising is absorbed properly into your memory. Most importantly, never feel guilty for enjoying some sunshine! If you need a change of scenery, sometimes it's nice to sit outside in the fresh air, alternatively enjoy your coffee or lunch outside. You could also head out for a relaxing walk.
Finally, everyone studies differently, so it's good to figure out when you study the best, whether it be mornings, afternoons or evenings.
Habits to avoid: Cramming, sugary energy drinks, reducing your sleep, not exercising!
To help you study productively, please check out our blog on Study Spaces.