How to divide your time before an exam: Exam prep!

Exams. We all hate them, yet our courses insist on us sitting them across the academic year in both January and May/June. Great! So, what can we do to make the exam periods more manageable and less daunting? 

We can, make a realistic revision schedule. A solid revision timetable ensures that we cover everything we need and in good time for the exam(s). Having a timetable/schedule also opens up the opportunity to break topics down into manageable chunks and puts things into perspective; this way we can better manage our time and the information that we need to know. When putting together a schedule, utilise Essay Writers’ tools and functions to create a more interactive and creative flowing schedule.

two students studying at a desk
two students studying outside

Okay, we want to talk about you now… Before you get started with your revision, it is important to find a revision style that suits you. Some revision styles include using flashcards, using mnemonics, practicing teaching and questions, forming study groups, and a huge study style is using mind maps! Take a moment to explore the different study and revision strategies to find which one works best for you – then start revising!

Having a load of notes is not always beneficial. This is simply just information on a page (or a screen) which doesn’t necessarily mean anything to you. However, if you were to customise your notes to make them more personal, this would encourage your brain to engage and improve your memorisation of the information. Try experimenting with colour coding, notes on postcards, diagrams, rewording sentences, or whatever helps you learn your topic.

Although memorising information is useful, simply just memorising it will not help you in your exam. If you are struggling to understand something, don’t be afraid to ask questions or to find a new source of information. Try to embrace meaningful learning – Meaningful learning means the act of higher order thinking and development through intellectual engagement that uses pattern recognition and concept association. It can include—but is not limited to—critical and creative thinking, inquiry, problem solving, critical discourse, and metacognitive skills.

Essentially, you are using the knowledge you already have to further develop your understanding of the new information you need to retain.

Always remember to take regular [short] breaks. The average attention and concentration span of all the UK population lasts only around 15 to 20 minutes, with adults 16+ years old maintaining focus for around 32-50+ minutes. Remember this when revising – cramming as much information as you can and sitting for hours upon hours is not going to be beneficial to you. in fact, you can actually feel more fatigued and anxious as your concentration will wane and you’ll think “do I really know this?!”.

At every break, reward yourself. Let us explain this one… As humans, when we get a reward, particular pathways in our brain become activated. Not only does this feel good, but the activation also leads us to seek out more rewarding stimuli. Humans show these neurological responses to many types of rewards, including food, social contact, music, and even self-affirmation. So, pick your reward and go with it!

If possible, look at past exam papers. They are key to understanding the rough layout and approach of the exam (they don’t tend to change too drastically). This means you can familiarise yourself with the layout and type of questions you’ll be asked. An extra tip is to practise completing exam papers in the set time limit to improve your exam technique too.

Start early. When we say this, we don’t mean day-time wise (unless that works for you!) but to give yourself ample time in the run up to the exam. Don’t leave everything last minute. Research has suggested that feeling overwhelming study-related stress actually reduces your motivation to do the work, impacts your overall academic achievement, and increases your odds of dropping out. Stress can also cause health problems such as depression, poor sleep, substance abuse, and anxiety. So, it’s good to be as prepared as possible and avoid that last minute study stress!

Make sure you get a good night’s sleep – rather than trying to revise all night as we now know that cramming in information and excessively revising for hours is counterproductive. Research also suggests that poor sleep impacts your memory, creativity, and logical reasoning. In other words, not sleeping enough impairs all the skills you need to perform well on a final exam. Additionally, when you miss out on sleep, you’ll have a tougher time paying attention, and it’s harder for your brain to commit new information to memory.

Most importantly – don’t panic! As we’ve mentioned in the point above, stress does not help us at all. If we panic, our bodies perceive this as a reaction to a [perceived] threat and the electrical activity in the brain increases, chemicals adrenaline and cortisol are then produced. Memory loss can result if that process occurs when fear or anxiety is excessive or persists beyond developmentally appropriate periods. So, stay cool, calm, and collected!

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