In Australia, the last term of the year has just begun, which means that exams are just around the corner for many, myself included. Along with these exams comes the stress and nerves of having to practically re-learn all necessary content, as well as accept the fact that the exam is unpredictable. Personally, I know this looms over my head regularly, and frightens me greatly. However, over the past few years, I've been able to test and trial many different forms of exam preparation techniques. Therefore, I have compiled my top ten tips of how, when and where you should study in preparation for your exams!
1. Compile MANY to-do lists!
By 'many' I mean MANY! I suggest, making to-do lists of to-do lists! But ensure that they are orderly. If you are about to sit exams for 5 subjects, make a to-do list per subject and then a to-do list for each day to set yourself goals to achieve. To-do lists allow you to have that sense of satisfaction once you've finished a task through crossing off each completed task. It also allows you to see how much progress you have made each day. However, it is important to note that you do NOT over estimate how much you believe you can get done. Remember, you can also add more to your list as you come towards the end of your list!
2. Have a neat, tidy space
A neat, tidy space is critical when preparing for exams! When a person has a neat tidy space, you have a neat tidy mind. It also ensures that you are not constantly running around looking for pens, paper, cue cards, ect. while you're supposably meant to be studying. Therefore, with a tidy space you will be able to study faster, achieve more of your set goals, retain more information and thus, by the time of your exam you will be better prepared!
Repetition, repetition, repetition. Someone once told me that '28 repetitions leads to 80% competence' and it's true. If you have definitions to learn, reading them over and over again will strengthen the neural pathways in your brain which will enable you be able to recall information faster. Therefore, in the exam when you are faced with a question, your brain will be able to retain information faster, and thus you will be able to answer questions better in the timeframe that you have.
4. Study using different types of methods
Your brain needs to be stimulated and kept interested. This will ensure that you will not be seeing studying as a chore. This roadblock will prove to prevent you from achieving your set goals as well as retaining the information you need to learn. Therefore, make studying interesting! Some useful ideas of how to study include:
- Cue cards
- Mind maps using BRIGHT colours
- Summary tables
5. Do plenty of practice exam questions
Practice exam questions are able to give you an insight of the type of questions that will be asked in relation to key knowledge. These questions prove to expose you to a range of questions that give you experience and help you prepare for what could be on your exam. It's important to do these questions regularly and ensure that you get them
6. Go to revision lectures
This is directed probably at the students who are in their last few years of school. But Revision lectures prove to help you consolidate what you've already learnt as well as hear those tricky topics explained by another person. This gives a great new perspective on what you will have to know and how to answer questions in regards to the content.
7. Always Drink Water
When you are studying your brain needs fuel to ensure that it keeps working at its optimal level. Therefore, it is important that you continue to drink water as it is both healthy and the best thing for your brain. Drinking water will also prevent you from getting headaches when studying!
8. Flashcards and Concept maps
Whether you are a visual learner or not, this can also be a great way to study! Not only does this give you a visual representation of the topic through a mind map, it also connects concepts together to make it a more meaningful concept. This will help the information to be encoded in your brain in a more in-depth way.
Flash cards are also great because you are able to test yourself and study on the go, as well as get your parents, friends or partner to test you. By having someone else test you this will really show you what you do know and what you don't know.
9. DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME!
I know you are all expecting me to say, don't procrastinate (which is what I may or may not be doing right now) but that is important, procrastination can be a massive trap! Also ensure that you are not wasting your time studying things you already know! This is why I find doing a practice exam at the beginning of your study (as in once you've just finished all your content) is really important. This will show you where you need to improve and the concepts you know well. Therefore, once you have this distinction and hierarchy, you should spend most of your time on the topics you don't know and just give a brief reading over the things you do know!
10. If you can, revise throughout the year (this is for people who still have years of study to come)
It may be a bit late for this for those doing year 12, however, for the rest of you I would highly suggest that you set aside at least 30 minutes a day per subject for you to go over content that you have already learnt (for example, concepts from term 1 even though you are in term 3), this will strengthen your knowledge of the concepts and make it A LOT easier when it comes to studying at the end of the year! It will also seem less daunting if you know that you've already put in the preparation throughout the year and not just left it all to the final few weeks.
Remember, whatever score or grade that you end up with, know that it does not define you! There is always ways to improve or find another pathway into doing the things you love. If you strive hard enough, you will get there in the end!