With exams at the College pretty close on the horizon, preparation techniques are on everyone’s mind. Memory games, organization, charts, and lists: everyone’s got ideas on how to get top grades and survive the exam period.
We’ve scoured the latest research and compiled our own list of favourite points just for you.
1. Don’t leave it to the last minute and cram.
This may sound obvious, but students make this mistake over and over again. Memory works by learning things over time and through repetition and that just can’t happen two days before the exam. Instead, you need to give yourself a bit of time to let your study sink in. Write up an exam preparation schedule. Make sure you start studying for an exam at least three weeks before it begins, even if it’s just an hour per day.
2. Write summaries.
There’s no way you’re going to remember everything in your texts and you’re not expected to. Isolate key concepts and evidence as you’re reading your texts, then summarise that information into your own miniature versions of the given texts. Even if you don’t re-read the information, the act of writing it down will help you remember it.
3. Graphics, rhymes and acrostic poems are great ways to remember groups of information.
For example, if you need to remember five contributing factors to the first world war, you could break it down like this:
- Mutual Defense Alliances
- Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
And now, all you need to remember is ‘Mi man!,’ Yo.
4. Remember to take breaks and give yourself rewards.
Having a giant block of chocolate in your cupboard and allowing yourself a piece every hour of study is a great way to motivate yourself, ensure regular breaks and stay awake at the same time. Going for a walk, stretching and getting exercise is also important, especially if you’re on a computer for hours.
5. Minimise distractions.
Put your phone away. Stay off facebook. Study somewhere quiet. You really have to get into the zone to get productive and that takes focus.
6. Keep your study space organised.
If you can’t find your textbooks on your desk, how are you going to find any your material in your brain when you need it? The physical and psychological spaces of your life are connected.
7. The Memory Palace.
If Cicero and Sherlock Holmes used it, it must be good, right? Basically, the Memory Palace is a highly effective way of storing information by visually associating important points with objects placed around an imaginary space you create IN YOUR MIND. Wild. Here’s a quick summary of how to do it.
8. Study with others.
Sometimes you might have missed something in your notes that one of your peers has. Or, maybe you were away for a lecture that had a crucial piece of information in it. You won’t know unless you study together and swap notes. A couple of brains are better than one, after all!
9. Plan your exam route.
Avoid rushing or being flustered by making sure you know exactly which room to go to, which bus to get on and how long it’s all going to take.
10. Manage anxiety.
OK, so if you haven’t studied at all and it’s two days before the exam, your anxiety is a rational response to under-preparation. However, if you’ve been studying for weeks and you’ve got a good grasp of the material, and you’re still freaking out and unable to sleep; that’s a bad kind of anxiety. Have a look at these tips for managing anxiety and go see the student counselor.
11. Uncouple your sense of self-worth from the exam results.
Remember, you are not the sum total of the results from this one exam. Failing doesn’t make you less of a valuable human being. You will experience a range of ‘failures’ in life. Just remember to learn from each experience and study more or differently in future.
I know it sounds crazy, but try and enjoy yourself! The challenge and speed of an exam can actually make it a fun experience if you’ve done your preparation. Good luck.