While the lead-up to exams can be nerve-wracking, students should make the most of their revision time by planning ahead and focusing on strengths and weaknesses, according to the STUDYSmarter team at The University of Western Australia.
STUDYSmarter team leader Siri Barrett-Lennard said the team had compiled a list of practical tips and strategies to help students feel prepared:
- Plan ahead: Create a study timetable so you know when you need to be focused and schedule regular breaks. Work back from each exam deadline to construct a realistic study timetable and then get cracking. Try making an exam planner to collect information about each exam in one place.
- Be strategic: For each exam subject, highlight your weakest areas and note the topics you know well. This is helpful to focus your study and remind you of your strengths. Beginning with the weakest areas, divide your study into manageable chunks.
- Practise: Study past exam papers and practise answering questions, keeping to the time set in the exam. This will take some of the mystery out of your exam because you will have some idea of what to expect. Create exam conditions by taking the phone off the hook and removing study materials from view (you may like to sit your ‘exam' in a library). The practice exam will give you a clear sense of your writing pace, as well as any weak areas. Review results and use them to focus your study.
- Make notes: Convert class notes, readings, assignments, tests and reports into useful notes. You might like to use 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.
- Use memory techniques: These can help you convert information from your short term to your long term memory. There are lots of memory techniques, so find one that suits you. Some people make flash cards; others stick post-it notes around the house.
- Talk it out: See if you can explain a concept to someone who has little or no knowledge of the topic. Find a friend or family member and see how well you know your subject. You will find that if you can explain an idea to someone in conversation, you can recall and write about it in an exam.
- Look after yourself: Make sure you eat and sleep well, and schedule exercise and leisure time into your routine. Study in bursts by breaking each hour into 45 minutes of study and 15 minutes of active relaxation. Don't use your break to turn on the TV or surf the net: go for a quick walk, have a drink or call a friend. It's important to manage your wellbeing during exams: you won't perform well if you don't feel well.
- Check exam times and requirements: Make sure you know which materials are allowed in the exam and which are not. If you have an open book exam, find out any restrictions from your teachers. Bring several differently shaped pens in case your hand gets tired, and make sure all your materials are working properly (check calculator batteries, pens, etc). Lastly, make sure you know exactly where your exam venue is.
- On the day: Arrive at the exam venue a few minutes early, but don't join any discussions with friends about what they've revised - you're likely to start doubting yourself! Use the reading time in the exam to decide which questions you'll answer and how many marks each task is worth. Tackle the tasks you find easiest first: this will give you confidence and ensure you have some marks ‘up your sleeve'. Keep track of time during the exam, and if you are taking too long with a question, move on and come back to it later - you'll lose more marks if you don't get to all the set tasks.
- Afterwards: Give yourself time to wind down, even if you have another exam the next day. And try to avoid doing a ‘post-mortem' of the exam; worrying about how you've done isn't going to change anything except how you feel about it!