So if you are anything like me you have found this post one week before your exams by typing into google “How to study for exams?”. How about I save you the time and give you some tips on how to make the most of your SWOT – VAC and hopefully ace those exams?!
Putting the “Pro” in Procrastination
“Never put off till tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow.” – Mark Twain
I get it. You’re busy doing stuff! You don’t know where all the time goes and there is always something to do when you live on college. To try and combat this, here are my tips to overcoming procrastination.
Follow the 5 minute rule. It’s simple. Newton’s first law, the law of inertia, states that things like to do what they are already doing. Set yourself a small goal of studying a particular aspect of a subject for 5 minutes. It is likely that once you start you will keep on going! By telling yourself you are just doing it for five minutes, you will not see studying as a huge chore, but rather a small task that you can complete easily.
May I also suggest the Pomodoro method? This method of beating procrastination is also another simple one. Instead of telling yourself, okay I am going to study chapter six for 3 hours, you sit down with a timer for 25 minutes and after those 25 minutes you allow yourself to have a 5-minute break. The key here is not to allow yourself to get caught up on Facebook during your break and start your timer again after 3 days’ worth of a break. If you’re feeling motivated why not try 50 minutes of work and a 10-minute break? Either way, give this a try next time you sit down to do some major study!
“I don’t love studying. I hate studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful.” – Natalie Portman
Essential tips for when your brain doesn’t want to uni
Nothing makes me more productive than the day before my first exam. Given that some of your exams are on the Friday of the SWOT – VAC week, you really don’t have much time to be ineffective in your studies before the exam. Consider these tips next time you sit down to make some brain gains.
Let’s get practical!
First tip, make a study timetable to be used during this period and set achievable goals for each day. It is important that you try to avoid cramming information into your brain the night before the exam and you get adequate sleep as these two factors affect memory retention and recall ability. Eat and sleep well by managing your time effectively and allow yourself to start studying early.
Second tip, study smart! Work during the times you feel most productive! If you are not a morning person, don’t work in the mornings and lose sleep, simple! If you are feeling tired but need to study REST! This may seem counter intuitive. You’re probably thinking, but I only have 78 hours 52 minutes and 7 seconds before my first exam, I need all the study time I can get! Honestly though, how effective are you when you are feeling out of energy like that? Take a nap! Either nap for 20-30 minutes or why not a whole hour and a half? The key here is not to feel guilty! You will achieve a lot more when you are refreshed.
The other way to study smart is by jumping onto LMS, opening your Enquiry Guides and viewing your Subject Intended Learning Outcomes for all your subjects. These should form the foundations for all your study. Use the Learning Objectives as subheadings and list information pertaining to those objectives underneath it. Don’t waste your time studying irrelevant information, stick to what you need to know!
Another tip, google it! Google is your best friend when it comes to learning new concepts. If you notice a word or idea in your textbook that you don’t quite grasp, google it! This is a technique that has helped me understand and even learn additional information for the first time, right before tests and exams.
My favourite way to study
Conceptualise the information, understanding what order different things occur and fitting everything together like a jigsaw puzzle. A lot of what you learn, especially in science and health science disciplines, builds up from previous knowledge, and if you haven’t got those jigsaw pieces in the right place, you may never complete the picture of how everything fits together!
A mistake that I see a lot of students make, through past experience and my mentoring this year, is that students try and memorise information rather than understand concepts. While there are times where rote learning is useful, a proper thorough understanding of an underlying concept will serve you much better come exam time.
Give yourself a break
My next tip is to stop being so hard on yourself! How many times have you made a to-do list that was so long that by the end of the day you felt as if you achieved nothing? Set three small goals, then break down these goals into what needs to be achieved to reach the overall goal. Breaking down your tasks and goals in this way makes them smaller and achievable. How motivated are you going to feel staring at a list of 400 massive tasks that consists of multiple parts? Break things down, set SMART goals and start to see a difference in your productivity.
I have never been able to study in my room and nor do I recommend it. Get out and get learning! Try your college’s computer lab or the library. Better yet, want to try something a bit different? Why not go to a cafe or a table beside Simpson’s Lawn!
Sweet, sweet coffee…
In terms of caffeine, use it sparingly! while it may be a useful tool for most, too much of it can negate the benefits. When I go to study, no matter what time of the day or night it is, my number one call is water! Your body works so much better when it is hydrated, so next time you go to study why don’t you bring a 2 litre bottle with you and see how you go? I never study without at least 2-4 litres of water right next to me!
By James from Menzies College