Exams tend to inspire extreme amounts of stress in students. An atmosphere of highly-strung tension seems to hover in the air, whispers of what questions might appear in the exam haunt the corridors, and black markets for ready-made notes spring up around every corner.
We know exams can bring some trying times, so we’re unleashing a few tips upon you that may just give you that extra edge. They’re not rocket science, but they do require a little bit of consistency and dedication in order to stick.
Make sure you don’t fall prey to procrastination this year – just follow these tips instead, they’re bound to improve your marks and lower your blood pressure.
Give yourself enough time to study.
Leaving revision until the day before the exam is literally setting yourself up for failure. Sure, some people need less time than others, but it’s doubtful you can cover a year's worth of notes in such a short time. We think you should get into focused revision mode at least two weeks before your upcoming exams (or four weeks if you feel you’ve got a bit of ground to make up).
Another sensible thing to do would be to set yourself a revision schedule. It can vary from hourly to daily, depending on how detailed you want it to be. Put your weaker subjects up first and for longer, and then follow them up with your stronger ones to finish things off. This foolproof technique will help you get an even grip on all your subjects, not just the ones you like.
Pro tip: use colour coding to make your schedule easier to understand!
Practice (exams) makes perfect!
Practice exams are a game-changer during exam season because they give you a good feel for what the official ones are going to be like.
If your curriculum hasn’t changed dramatically since previous years, past papers will likely cover most of the same topics as your actual exam will, and the question structure also probably be similar. This means that if you’ve done reasonably well in a few practice papers, you don’t have to be as anxious going into the exam room on the day.
To make the most of them, though, you have to treat them like the real deal. Throw yourself into a timed environment, with no notes or ways to cheat, and without any distractions. It will give you a fair idea of how much you know and where work needs to be put in.
Organise your workspace.
Studies show that people with an organised workspace are much more focused and able to concentrate on the task at hand.
If you’ve got a desk or table that you work on at home, you’re probably familiar with specific times (exams, for example) when they tend to get cluttered up quite quickly. From coffee mugs to gaming controllers to piles of study guides, you can find all kinds of items on a student's desk. This can lead to wasting time looking for your precious notes… or spilling a drink on that essay that took you ages to complete.
If you’re in that situation at the moment, look at your desk and imagine it clean and void of any unnecessary items. Everything you need will be on hand, and there will be no need to lose focus just to find your pencil that’s hidden itself again under your piles of refill paper. Your mind will be decluttered along with your physical space. Now… use that motivation to tidy it, and keep it clean!
This won't just come in handy for exams, but you're also going to thank yourself in the long term. After exams, you’ll still have a clean desk (after you’ve removed the mountain of notes), making your room look and feel a lot more pleasant.
Take regular breaks.
You’ll like this one! Yes, your study sessions will be much more productive overall with a few regular breaks. Studies show that removing yourself from the constant pressures of studying can refresh your brain and increase your energy.
Most people find their minds start to wander off topic after around thirty minutes of serious study. This means you start to get distracted and waste time, so it’s a good idea to take a break and recharge. But here's the catch: we recommend that you don’t let these regular breaks extend past five or ten minutes. After that, you’ll find it more difficult to dive back into where you left off.
We cover more about how to take effective breaks in this article about the Pomodoro Technique – it’s well worth a read!
Check in with your teacher.
Having a hearty discussion about what might come up in the exam with your teacher can improve your odds of success.
If you’re not already familiar with the mark scheme, they’ll be able to give you a good rundown of which topics are essential to cover and even how many marks each topic is worth. They’ll also be able to give you an idea of how the exam will be structured – for example, the mix of short answer, long answer, and multiple-choice questions.
If you’re a younger student and are still sitting internal exams at the end of the year, then this tip will definitely come in handy, because there’s a good chance that your teacher may have written the exam themselves. Obviously, they won’t divulge details on any of the questions in the exam or the answers to them, but they’ll usually be able to give you a good heads up on where to focus your preparation time.
Regular study and exam preparation during the year will make your exam season much more stress-free. Our team at EduExperts are specialists in preparing students like for exams.
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