It’s exam season once again and we know how stressful and demanding this period can be. Whether you’re in Grade 12 and approaching your last set of high school exams, or you’re an experienced university student with dozens of exams under your belt, there are certain things you can do to improve your preparation and ensure you get the marks that you deserve.
We’ve dedicated this blog post to giving you some handy tips and useful hints that will help you get the most out of your study time and take some of the stress out of this exam period. We like to help our students get ahead, so here are our study tips for exams.
How to study for exams
Everybody studies differently and we all have certain things that work for us. Each school subject or university module demands different types of studying and it’s up to you to decide the best approach that will get the information into your head and onto that exam script.
However, there are a few things that everyone can do to study more effectively. Having worked with thousands of students (and having been students ourselves once upon a time), we have put together 5 simple tips that will help you minimise the stress and maximise the marks in the upcoming exam period.
- Make a study plan (and stick to it!)
We all know the old saying: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. This most certainly applies to studying and one of the most important tips we can give is to make a proper study plan. Start off by marking all your exams down on a calendar – this can either be an electronic calendar (Google or Outlook, for example) or you can print a blank calendar for the exam period and stick it on your wall. The most important thing is that it’s easily accessible and allows you to see each day and week clearly. Once you have your exams marked on the calendar, figure out what material you need to cover for each exam. This can be broken down by the different sections of the course/subject, or even by the chapters of the textbook. Then allocate enough time on your calendar for each section or chapter and be sure to leave time for revision before the exam.
- Write notes as you study
Even if you’ve made great notes during classes or lectures, the process of writing down key pieces of information as you study will help you to retain the information while also organising it in your memory more effectively. Use different colours if you want or even draw diagrams and pictures – figure out what works best for you and develop your own system. While some people may recommend typing the notes out, our advice is to hand write the notes as this has been proven to be the most effective method. Read more about this research. Whether it’s formulas, lists or concepts, this approach is extremely effective for memory retention because the act of slowing down to interpret what you’re writing will force you to internalise the knowledge. Then, when you get to the revision stage, you can go back over your study notes and make sure everything is in your head.
- Work in pairs or groups
This doesn’t work for everyone but studying together with one or two friends can be very effective in understanding important concepts and organising your thoughts. You’ll be surprised how much a discussion with a peer can help you to work through and understand concepts, which then makes it easier to retain that information. One approach you can take is to ‘teach’ each other different sections or topics. By teaching your friends, you’ll be able to find the key points and organise the information into a coherent structure.
- Eat, sleep and exercise!
Although it’s not exactly a study tip, we can’t stress enough the importance of your physical and mental health during the stressful exam period. Try and eat regular, healthy meals and ensure you get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night. Even if you’ve left things late and need to do a bit of ‘cramming’, proper nutrition and sleep will make your study time much more effective. Trying to force concepts and information into a tired, hungry brain gets more and more difficult as your brain gets more tired and hungry. It’s also important make time for exercise – this will increase your energy levels and reduce stress. Even a quick 15 to 20-minute walk can do wonders for your concentration and memory retention.
- Be kind to yourself and remember, they’re just exams!
Of course exams are important and of course there is a lot of pressure to succeed. But don’t forget that one exam or set of exams is not the ultimate test of your ability or the final mark of success. Believe in yourself and be kind to yourself – take breaks when you’re tired and treat yourself when you’ve stuck to your study plan. And remember, you’ve got this!
- Make a study plan (and stick to it!)
We hope these tips have been useful. Best of luck for the exams ahead and keep an eye out for our future blog posts (they’re great to read while on your study break!).