Exams are stressful and study is boring. Fact.
Most of us would rather trim the lawn with a nail scissors than study. If we’re honest, we are inclined to lock ourselves in a room for two hours organising our sock drawer or thinking about what our death row meal would be, and then clapping ourselves on the back for all the study we kid ourselves that we did. Here’s the thing, studying and doing exams are skills which can be improved. You have only so much brain capacity and energy for one sitting so you need to use it wisely.
Here are my top tips.
- Set yourself a section goal, not a time goal. Rather than committing to study for two hours a day, commit to learning a certain number of chapters. That way, if you work really hard, you can reward yourself by finishing early and watching an episode of Rupaul’s Drag Race.
- Take breaks. Your brain will shut down every 45-60 mins. Get up and walk around, eat some food, hug your Ma for five minutes, and get straight back to it.
- When you finish for the night, switch off. Your break times are as important as study times.
- The most important thing I ever learned about studying is this. USE MINDMAPS!
When I was in college, a lecturer told me how effective they are for studying and I didn’t believe him until I tried it myself. We remember more that we see visually in diagram or drawing form than we do in text. Over the remainder of my studies I became the queen of mindmaps. Here’s how to do them…
- Pick a topic or chapter, start in the middle of the page and write the title.
- Take a line from the centre and add in sub headings, each with key dates, facts, definitions or descriptions that you need to know word for word.
- Use as few words as you can, but each should be a trigger around which you can structure an entire answer.
- Use different colours, or highlight different sections to make it prettier (and more memorable).
- Draw and redraw the entire mindmap until you can do it without missing any sections.
- By the time you come close to the exam, aim to have 5-6 mindmaps for the entire subject which you can redraw in your sleep.
When in the exam:
- Read all the questions, pick the ones you want to answer and redraw the mind-maps straight away on the back of the exam paper. This will help you relax as you know you won’t forget anything. You just need to structure your answers around your main points.
- Divide up the time you need for each section and stick to it, allocate 10 minutes at the end to reread and review.
- When the time for each section is up, stop, leave some space for review, and move on.
- For the final ten minutes, go back over the entire paper, and finish any sections you didn’t get to. Jot down some extra bullet points if you don’t have time to write paragraphs, this could earn you an extra couple of marks which could be the difference between a B or an A.
Finally, don’t get stressed. By the time the exam comes, you can do no more, and dossers remorse will only make things worse. Relax, and know that in 2-3 hours, it will all be over.