1. Exam Season Survival Guide: The Ultimate Guide to Studying for Exams

Exam Season Survival Guide: The Ultimate Guide to Studying for Exams

Published on 28 Apr 2023
General Article

Preparing for exams can be a daunting task, but with the right mindset and plan, it can be both manageable and successful. For students everywhere, this can be one of the most stressful times of the academic year and the preparation can be somewhat overwhelming. Exams are an unavoidable part of the education process irrespective of whether the students are in high school, college, or graduate school.

Here are some tips on preparing for an exam.

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Trial and Error 

Each student has their own unique way of learning and acquiring knowledge, known as their learning style. According to Wilfrid Laurier University in 2004, there are four predominant learning styles. The study concluded that these represent optimal learning styles for the students involved. They include visual learning where students learn through pictures and diagrams, auditory learning where students learn through listening or a style which involves speaking, reading and writing and, finally, kinaesthetic learning which involves hands-on activities and movement.

However, based on a recent study by psychologists and other experts in the field there are actually 3 to 170 different types of learning styles. Some of these lesser-known styles include: 

1.  Analytical learning: This refers to students who prefer to learn by breaking down new knowledge into smaller parts followed by attempts to understand and analyse how these parts all fit together as a whole.

2. Social learning: Here a student learns best through social interactions and collaboration with others such as by studying in a group.

3. Solitary learning: Studying independently, without much social interaction or group work motivates some students and helps them focus better on the subject at hand.

4. Nature learning: There are students who prefer to learn by observing, exploring and interacting with the world around them.

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Create A Study Schedule

Many schools or universities will have their exam dates planned out at the start of the school term. This benefits many students by helping them to plan and prepare for exams earlier. Creating a study schedule is highly effective in preparing for an exam and reduces the risk of last-minute cramming and negative effects such as stress and anxiety. Early preparation also helps to ensure that there is enough time to cover all the learning material.

 

How do you create a study schedule?

Begin creating your schedule a few weeks in advance of the set exam date. Check all the material that needs to be studied, consider the amount of time needed for each subject and schedule your priorities accordingly. For example, if you have a Maths exam on Monday followed by History Paper on Wednesday, then prioritise learning Maths before History and the other subjects.

It is important to remember to set realistic goals that you can achieve, rather than trying to cram too much material into one study session. Use a planner or calendar to map out your study sessions and block off specific times for studying each subject. Don’t forget to also include breaks in your calendar to give your brain a rest. If you are using a digital calendar, then set signals to remind you of your next study session and when to take breaks.

Next, vary your study sessions by alternating between different subjects and investigating techniques to help you stay engaged and prevent burnout. Additionally, be prepared to adjust your study schedule as needed just in case there are unexpected or unavoidable events that interrupt your planned study session.

Lastly, regularly review your study schedule to ensure that you’re on track and revise the schedule if necessary to ensure that all the materials and subjects are covered before the exam.

 


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Find an Environment that Enhances Productivity

Numerous studies have shown that the environment you put yourself in when studying or completing work has an effect on your productivity and performance. Other factors such as comfort, lighting, colour, noise and clutter may affect your overall concentration and study efforts.

Typically, younger students, benefit from a positive environment. Positive features include a prepared study area colourful stationery fun elements such as their favourite cartoon characters and motivational quotes. All of these serve to encourage them to learn.

In contrast, the learning environment for older students can vary with each student. For instance, when I was in high school, I found that studying in a café in the afternoon boosted my productivity and concentration and enabled me to complete work that I had been slacking on. The atmosphere of the café – dim lights or natural sunlight, the aroma of fresh coffee and the sounds of coffee being made helped me focus on my work much better than I would have been able to do by studying at home or in a library.

Thus, it is good to create and/or find a space that makes you feel comfortable and motivated and able to focus on your studies. Sometimes, an environment may become dull and demotivating after a certain period of time, so try out different learning environments and take note if any of these new places motivate you. What you have to do may be as simple as moving your desk around or adding a new decoration to your study area. Having a few study places that ignite your energy and enhance your focus will in all likelihood bring many benefits to your productivity and performance. 

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Practice Past Exams

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana

A way to practice what you have learned and to familiarise yourself with the exam system is to do past exam papers. This will help you to test your knowledge in a particular subject and to narrow down the areas in which you are not so confident. Additionally, practising with past exam papers can help you spot some “hot” topics that examiners like to ask and build some confidence in preparation for the exam.

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Don’t Neglect Your Wellbeing

The exam season brings stress and worries that are hard to avoid. However, it is important to prioritize your well-being when preparing for an exam because neglecting it can have negative effects on your physical and mental health. This may in turn have an impact on your ability to perform well on the exam.

Some ways to ensure that your wellbeing is taken care of include:

  1. Getting enough sleep 
  2. Exercising regularly 
  3. Eating well-balanced meals 
  4. Taking regular breaks 
  5. Practising relaxation techniques
  6. Seeking support when and if needed 
  7. Staying connected with friends and family
  8. Celebrating small victories 

In conclusion, preparing for exams can be a challenging process, but with the right strategies and mindset, anyone can excel. Some of the tips such as understanding your learning style, creating a study schedule, finding a suitable learning environment, going through past exam papers and taking care of your wellbeing can all help you achieve the grades you have set for yourself. By following these exam tips and adopting a growth mindset, you can set yourself up for success and achieve your academic goals. Always remember, success is not just about getting good grades but also about learning and growing as a person. So, stay motivated, stay focused, and keep striving for excellence!

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