Exam time can be tough. I know, I’m finding myself right in the midst of it right now. However, over the 13 years of being a student, I’ve picked up on a couple of tips that should help you get through this oh-so-tricky period. Remember, exams may be important, but taking care of yourself is even more important.
1. Get organised! Obviously, everyone’s studying habits will be different. But what is universally accepted is that the more prepared you are for your upcoming exams, the better you will perform in them. Go through your old notes, write fresh ones, form a study group and go over practice questions together… all these are things that will help you to feel better prepared for your exams. Ask a family member to test you on your notes or attempt writing an answer to a question within a time limit (particularly important if you struggle with time in exams). Anything that you know will benefit your learning is a go-to move I’d say.
2. Take breaks! I have a friend who refused to go out with me tonight (just for 2 hours to a photography exhibition) because she would be studying. Now, this might be seem fair enough depending on when your exam is (although I highly doubt that it’s on a Saturday), but it is really important that you take breaks from studying. Regular, short breaks will help you keep focused, and help to rejuvenate your brain a little after all the hard thinking and memorising it’s been doing. I like to take breaks by taking my puppy for a walk and listening to my favourite podcast. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something you will enjoy and that will relax you for a while… perhaps just sitting back and watching an episode of your favourite TV show. Just make sure you do resume studying after your breaks!
3. Problems? Talk to your teachers! I had the most amazing teachers in high school. They were always ready to help any of us and one of my main problems with university is how differently things work in that department. Nonetheless, your lecturers and tutors are still your teachers and all of mine still informed our classes that we can email them any time we wish, or organise a time to see them, or even talk to them on the phone if travelling to uni is an issue. Remember how they handed out their emails at the start of semester? Dig those out, and get writing. If you have any questions about a topic or question that would probably require a wordy answer, it’s probably better to make an appointment to see them or chat to them over the phone (weird, but hey, it will help you get the good marks!). But if your question is something simple, perhaps about the exam structure itself, a simple email will suffice.
4. Be good to yourself! Exam time can have a funny affect on people. It’s generally the time when people forget themselves and begin to eat badly, or not eat enough and lose many valuable hours of sleep. It’s really important not to lose sight of your health during a difficult period. Make sure you eat the right foods and even if you don’t usually eat all that well, this would be a good time to start. Eat a balanced meal, with lots of ‘brain’ food (nuts, veggies, fruit), drink plenty of water, and make sure you get at least 8 hours sleep a night.
5. Be knowledgeable! I’m not talking about knowledge on your exam topic (although, this would help!) but knowledge on the ‘housekeeping’ aspects of your exam. This being the exact time, place, room, etc. where your exam/s are to be held. This might seem like common sense, but if you’re at university, you know how timetables get changed quickly and rooms get swapped over. If you arrive at the wrong place, it will add extra stress that you definitely don’t need right before an exam. Sometimes, you will have never been to the exam venue before, so make sure you know where it is, and have made appropriate arrangements to arrive there on time.
6. Avoid people! Kind of a funny rule, but you know before an exam starts how you’re stuck in a room or area with a whole bunch of people, many of who are stressed and showing it, and many who are over-confidently spewing out all the information they know? This won’t help your stress levels. Other people’s stress can get contagious, and hearing people go over information might remind you of something you don’t know, which will only intensify your stress. If it’s a small fact, sure, you can pick it up. But if it’s a whole chunk of things you don’t know, best just leave it and do the best that you can.
7. When it’s done, it’s done! One of my favourite things about exams is that once they’re over, they’re truly over. They also signify the beginning of holidays… and isn’t that a wonderful thing? The weather might be freezing here in Melbourne, but once you’ve finished your final exam, you can relax and enjoy your freedom. Don’t go over the exam in your mind, thinking about where you might have gone wrong… it won’t do any good and there’s nothing you can do to change it. The results will come when they come, so until then, enjoy yourself!