Here are your instructions

Author: Aleksandra

Preparing for exams is extremely stressful and it can be so overwhelming that you feel that you don’t know where to start. As someone who a lot of exams (probably more that is recommended!), I have some advice for you.

Some general advice:

The brain can hold about 4 “chunks” of information in short-term memory. So, realistically, if you leave everything until the night before, you will remember around 40% of your material. Therefore, starting early is important.

If you start early, try to stick to a routine. Don’t work yourself to exhaustion, stop studying at a certain hour, so that you can keep going the next day. Also having a deadline each day (I have to do all the work I have planned by 8 pm), will make you more productive.

If you are feeling anxious, can’t concentrate or sit down, try exercising.

If you don’t feel ‘motivated’, write down the reasons why you are studying (bigger picture like helping your family financially or even wanting to become a success, anything works really) or think about what a ‘perfect you’ would be doing at this moment. In general, it is better to create a routine that you follow so that you don’t question if you want to study or not, you just do.

Only study in places where you are productive. Most of the time students find it impossible to study in their room, so don’t try and force yourself or you will waste precious willpower. Make sure that if you are study in the library, you keep the library a ‘clean’ study space. Don’t watch Netflix, YouTube or waste time on social media. You want to keep the place associated with studying and only studying. Don’t make procrastination an option.

All courses and exams are different in nature, but here is plan that has worked for me every time.

  1. Look through the course outline, look at the exam information and the overview of the module.
  2. Look through the slides and make a detailed revision plan on paper. Make it realistic and time specific. (Crossing out already revised sections is super satisfying)
  3. Start revising slowly by going through the slides. Spend time memorising important information on the slide. You can speed up the process by combining your lecture notes and the notes you’ve made on the lecture, reading and making new notes. This doesn’t mean rewriting your notes, but making the information more concise, understandable to you and rearranging the information into a more logical way.
  4. Do exercises connected to the topic, don’t leave it till later or allow yourself give excuses for not doing it. Also, the longer you wait, the more stressful you make it for yourself. Sit down, read the exercise, break it down into steps and work your way through. You have mastered the exercise when you don’t need to look anything up and can do everything yourself. Reading through the solution and understanding does not equal being able to do it yourself!
  5. When you have been working with a topic after a topic, you start to see more connections between the topics than when you have been studying them week after week. Make sure to make notes of them, so that when you are practising writing essay question parts (if you have them), you will find it easier to combine topics and won’t lose points because you didn’t think of a connection or an argument that you could have added.
  6. If you have started fairly early, look for a couple of academic articles for each topic and make notes of them. If you can add them to the essays you are writing, you could impress the lecturer.
  7. When finished with the module, do the past papers and keep revising the concise notes and keep doing the practical exercises and essays. Never skip doing the past papers if they are available. You learn more testing yourself for 1 hour than revising for 1 hour. Practice is the most intimidating and the most effective way of studying.

I wish good luck to every single one of you and I hope my wisdom will help you.


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