Sarah Teja has just officially finished all of her exams, yeay! So, by now, she knows the nitty-gritty of exam survival all too well. Having gone through countless exams at university, here are a few lessons she personally learned. They are especially worth sharing for all of you who are about to undertake exams – in whatever form they may be. May the odds be ever in your favour!
- Prepare the Materials in Advance
Please make sure you have everything ready to be ‘digested’ prior to your revision period (in the UK, this refers to the few weeks prior to exams after classes have finished), as trying to compile all your study notes is the last thing you want to deal with under exam stress. Trust me, I have done that and would not recommend that to anyone. On my first semester at university, I enjoyed the Christmas holiday probably a tad too much that I neglected my revision for the January exams all through the festive season. It was pure suicidal, as I spent a large portion of my time running around my room frantically attempting to print a semester’s worth of lecture notes and re-learning them at the same time.
Traumatised by the experience, nowadays I always print all lecture notes as I go through the semester to save time doing less productive things during the hectic revision period. Another useful tip would be to create a check list of topics for each module, as a way to know whether or not you have the specific notes in hand.
As for essays or coursework, allow yourself some time to actually think about the question. After having a rough idea of what you want to write, then you do more research to develop your argument. This way, you don’t get lost in other academics’ argument. After you have your argument and the references you need, usually the writing task itself becomes much simpler and less time-consuming.
- Past Papers: Your New Best Friend
This point will further shamelessly prove that I was an utter rookie in my first semester at university. As I had a short revision period, I decided to not look at the past exam papers at all for a few modules, thinking “ignorance is bliss”. At the time I thought, if I were to stare at such questions, which I had no clue how to solve pre-exam, it would simply make the prospect of sitting through those exams even more stressful for me. When my results were out, there was a clear discrepancy between the ones I studied with and without past papers, and I can confirm that studying past papers was one of the determinants in achieving higher marks!
By using past papers, you can actually practise how to use the knowledge you have learned from the notes and apply it to the questions. Moreover, you can also familiarise yourself with the type of questions that are asked and perhaps even time yourself when answering them. This is especially essential for modules with substantial amount of mathematics or calculations as past exam questions are a great way to practise them.
- Do Not Procrastinate. Plan Ahead.
This is always easier said than done, but I’ll remind you again regardless. Do try to steer clear from procrastination, because it is a huge impediment to your success in acing exams. Getting distracted is normal, after all we are mere humans! But, remember why this exam is important to you, and use that notion to propel you in deleting all possible sources of distractions – Instagram, games, and what nots – from your gadgets. Don’t worry because you can always re-download them once exams are over. After exams, you will have plenty of time to do fun things.
Another tip to prevent yourself from being distracted is to craft and follow a study plan. Ahead of your revision, it might be useful to create a list of topics to learn for each day, so that you won’t feel overwhelmed and seek escape through social media or games. A plan also deters you from cramming last-minute too.
- Take Good Care of Your Well Being
It is very easy to get burnt out from all that revision, so make sure to take a break when fatigue starts kicking in. Whenever I feel a little lethargic, hitting the gym is my go-to activity. By focusing on something other than my revision, it allows my mind to take a breather. Also, I always feel more refreshed post-workout, and hungry to learn more. Scientifically-speaking, exercising is a good way to manage exam stress because it induces endorphin-production.
Last but not least, don’t forget to get enough sleep and eat your 5-a-day. From what I have witnessed, during revisions and exams, students tend to live off sugary energy drinks, sodium-packed junk foods, and bags of sweets that are nutritionally devoid. Please don’t make your body suffer even more, it has to be strong enough to support your brain to fully function. After studying all day long, make sure to give your body the fuel it needs. If you no longer have the energy to cook, then give yourself a break by buying some nourishing meals and save money later after exams are done.
I wish you all the very best of luck for your upcoming exams! Bonne chance.
Photos provided by author