Every student dreads exam time! Trying to memorise everything covered in class in the past six months is not easy, no matter how academically smart you are. Most of us forget everything as soon as the exam is over! Feeling under pressure when exam season approaches can have many negative effects on both your physical and mental health. Being well prepared for upcoming exams will help you be in better control of how you respond to stress and pressure, making it easier for you to concentrate. This also means that you must use your own initiative and have a proactive approach, which may be daunting to some as it means taking on more responsibilities. But hey, it’s all a part of life!
One thing that I find difficult is memorising notes/essays/quotes etc. If you are anything like me, you will eventually become overwhelmed with the amount of work you need to get through because you usually leave it right up until the last minute, and then become stressed and anxious because you cannot remember a specific quote or the opening to a paragraph, etc. – the list goes on! Preparing for an exam is always difficult. Especially when it involves long pieces of text, for example, when you are trying to learn an essay for your English paper. The fear of not being able to remember parts of the essay adds real pressure that is hard to shake off. The points outlined in the remainder of this article will help you to be as prepared as possible for any exam.
1. Using Your Time Correctly
To be well prepared for anything, it is important that you give yourself enough time. One of the best ways to start is to start as early as possible. It is nearly impossible to learn off a three-page essay the night before an exam! Having a clear study schedule at hand will work in your favor. Invest some time into planning out your study schedule and fit in the preparation for your exams at least three weeks in advance of the exams. Mapping out a paragraph/quotes to learn each night enables your brain to focus harder, therefore giving you leeway in writing a successful paper. It is almost impossible to learn anything when you are under stress, and chances are, once the exam is over, you will forget everything (which you do not want happening!). Getting a good night’s rest is important as it will increase your study productivity during the day, allowing you more time to work on your notes, instead of being up all night trying to cram as much information as possible whilst being half asleep. Therefore, starting early and using study methods that are better suited to you will be beneficial in the long-term.
2. Understanding Your Work
It is always important to always understand what it is you are trying to learn. When you understand what you are learning, the learning part will be easier. This is asking yourself ‘Why is this important?’, and ‘Where does this fit into the real world?’. If you’re not sure, ask a teacher, a parent, or someone who knows. There’s always an answer out there somewhere. As once you know the meaning, this means that you are no longer trying to memorise buckets of text word for word, but rather, that you have enough understanding to be able to apply your own language and make your exam responses your own. Highlight the important statements and words that must be included and weave them into your answers – studies have shown that it is easier to remember sentences when highlighted as it brings attention to them first.
3. Breaking Down Your Work
Break your work down into pieces. Learn the information piece by piece, paragraph by paragraph, quote by quote, etc. For best retention, it is recommended to learn bit by bit. Read over it, highlight the important parts, understand what it is you are trying to write, and then practice by writing it down on the paper, without looking at your notes. Having a good structure to your exam responses can help, especially if it an essay-type exam, as it gives you an indication as to what to write next. Having key phrases on flashcards also help. This may sound a little strange but, record yourself. Listening to yourself reciting the essay and playing it back will trigger the parts of your brain responsible for learning and memory. Mix up your study methods to find one that is best suited to you. Trial-and-error is the best approach here!
4. Importance of Testing Yourself
The most important part of preparing for exams, once you have done the first three parts, is testing yourself. Once you are satisfied with your study, try reciting answers to specific questions. See if you can modify your responses. By self-testing, you will give yourself the opportunity to improve and make any changes needed. Feeling under pressure will undoubtedly have a knock-on effect on your performance, but when you understand what you are writing and are able to adapt it in various ways, shows a real commitment on your part.
No matter your age or intelligence, studying for exams will always seem like a challenging task. It is up to you to make it as pain-free a process as possible. This means finding suitable and worthwhile methods that will work for you. Constantly re-reading a piece of text will not be sufficient, therefore it is up to you to challenge yourself. The key thing to remember is that you must always test yourself in the weeks leading up to exams, to give yourself the best possible chance at achieving your utmost potential.
- Work on your study schedule to allow sufficient time for your studies.
- Understand what you are studying, so that it is easier for you to remember information when it comes time for exams.
- Implement a bit-by-bit approach to your study so as not to put your brain into overdrive.
- Testing yourself is the key to achieving your desired results.