After the strong reaction to last week’s ’10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Stay At UoM To Study’ article, and the fact that finals are now closer than ever, it seemed like perfect timing to write another study-related article which readers can this time actually get something out of. Scrapping pessimistic views on revising, here are 10 practical ways to improve your preparations for these upcoming exams. Some of them might appear obvious but it’s not the first time we tend to forget about them once the going gets tough. Also note that these ways may not all apply to each and every student, so feel free to pick out and adapt the ones you prefer.
1. Use highlighters and sticky notes. The reasoning behind it is simply to have notes which are more interesting to look at for hours on end. Line after line of black sentences on white paper tend to get boring after some time, so going for a more colourful approach might help to make the whole process slightly more bearable.
2. Shorten and repeat your notes. If, like me, you tend to give up when going through whole pages of block text, another piece of advice would be to take only the most important points from that text and write or type them elsewhere in the form of separate sentences, therefore creating a much more concise summary of what you need to study. This will prove beneficial when you get to your final revision the day before the exam because, by being able to go through your brief notes quicker, you have more time to repeat them and get them into your coffee-stricken brain.
3. Go for healthy food and drinks. Speaking of coffee, even though it might keep you awake, we all know it’s not that positive in the long run to use it as your only constant beverage. A simple glass or bottle of water by your desk will keep your brain going, especially now that the summer temperatures are starting to kick in. As for food, we all know what is the most accessible and enjoyable to consume while we’re trying to study, but increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in your daily diet during the next few weeks is guaranteed to help you in many subtle ways.
4. Note down and plan out what you need to study. Instead of starting from your very first lecture and just seeing where it takes you, make sure you make a concrete list of all the topics you have to revise. Keep it with you at all times to make sure you leave nothing out and, at the same time, not to go overboard by going through stuff you don’t actually need to know for your exam. You can also attach each topic in the list with the corresponding pages or chapters you can refer to from your books or other source material you have.
5. Do not study by heart. Unless your lecturer told you do this word for word, in which case he or she might also be wrong, stick to your own unique method of studying instead of forcing yourself to develop photogenic memory. Face the fact that during the exam you will not remember every single detail you would have gone through. Try to repeat and remember the most important points and you should be fine.
6. Take plenty of productive breaks. This implies two things: firstly, make time for short breaks every hour or so that you’ve been studying. Secondly, instead of limiting your study breaks to going on Facebook or watching an episode of your favourite series, try to go for motivational breaks, after which you will actually have the determination to continue studying. Common examples would be going for a short walk or jog, or having a coffee with one of your friends. As long as you are able to unwind and relax during that break, and simultaneously not staying at home stuck by your bedroom desk.
7. Find your own way to stay relaxed. Whether it’s your favourite genre of music in the background, studying on the couch, having scented candles in your room, yoga stretching or squishing the hell out of a stress ball, it’s vital that you find methods to keep calm and decrease your stress levels which work the best for you. And the best way you can achieve this is pretty much by trial and error.
8. Maintain your social life. Sure, clubbing is pretty much out of the question. But locking yourself inside and studying for days on end is not healthy at all. Keep your friends close during this period by occasionally meeting up so you can keep each other’s morals up. It’s ok if you inevitably end up talking about exams or a particular subject you’re finding difficult to get through, as long as you don’t end up psyching each other out, and as a result doing more harm than good. And if you still are not willing to leave the house, especially in the last days before your exam, you can always phone your friends or Skype with them. Just try to opt out of endless hours chatting on Facebook.
9. Use past papers. This is a very effective way of testing yourself and, at the same time, of attaining a clearer idea of what you need to study and what you can expect in the final exam. Get your hands on recent papers and try them out once you feel you have grasped the topic at hand. Ask your course mates, or contact your lecturer if possible, whenever you find difficulties, or you can even organize a study group during which you can go through past papers together. See, that’s another way of keeping your social life on track during exam period.
10. Do not force all-nighters. I myself can never stay focused after midnight, which means I can never do all-nighters. If they work for you its fine, but personally I’ve found that sleeping earlier will help you wake up early too, which works for me since I tend to go through more material in the morning when my brain is a fresh clean slate. I also wouldn’t advise an all-nighter the day before your actual exam. Even if you still have a lot to revise and not enough time to do so except if you spend the night awake, an all-nighter will only exhaust you and drain your energy once you come to the point of sitting down for your exam. If you want to keep nerves on the down low, start early and you will not be disappointed.