Exam Prep, Tips & Tricks
It's nearly time for exams so we've compiled a list of 10 tips to help you through it! A special mention to those students who told us their exam tips in our Week 11 Competition - they're mentioned below!
Grab a hot drink and let's get into it...
1. Make a Study Schedule
Have you heard your friend say at the start of session "This time I made a plan and I'm going to follow it?" Then somewhere in Week 5, things get a bit stressful. Week 7 (or Study Week) comes along and they end up binging their favourite show on Netflix and by Week 12 comes, they've forgotten all about it!
Josh, our Events and Engagement Coordinator here at LEXSA is currently studying. This is what he has found "I find making a study schedule to be the most effective way to start my exam prep. Ideally, I'd use a study schedule all session, but between work and uni, it feels like my weekly schedule set for me, so I don't bother. Once exams are on the horizon, I begin looking for holes in my knowledge and find out what I need to know to do well. Next, I prioritise and set a schedule so I can get across everything in time.
When I first got started with uni, I thought there was only one way to do a "schedule." I really thought I had to do the whole highschool "time/day thing," with the week written out and specific tasks allocated to times throughout the day. I have since found out, this just does not work for me.
As I have progressed through my studies, I have learnt that what works best for me is setting a schedule by allocating achievements rather than work types. I decide each week what tasks I need to have completed by the end of a specific period, put them in order of importance, and then get after it!
I still have a schedule, I still split things up and know what I am doing each day, but I have some fluidity which keeps me sane. I might decide I need to write 500 words each day or to watch x number of lectures and do y number of readings. Take note when deciding on how/what and how much to do each day, be honest with yourself.
Don't overestimate your ability and set yourself up for failure. It's just not realistic to ask yourself to watch five lectures in a day and retain all the information you need to, or that you can write a 1500 word essay in an afternoon. Focus on bite-sized chunks, and you will be surprised how productive you can be."
Bethany Davies's Tip:
"Go through all the lecture notes and summarise them all so you’ve got them all in one document and with only the most important info on them"
2. Follow your study schedule.
Josh, part of our team here at LEXSA had this to say "There is an old joke that goes something like, "I was so proud of myself! I made the perfect study plan, complete with tabs, colours, adjustments for timezones, and moon cycles; it was easily the best study plan ever written! The only problem is that I spent so much time making it that I ran out of time to actually study. Well, I'll pass next time!"
I'm not sure where I first heard the joke, and honestly, it isn't very funny, but still, it pops into my mind from time to time. I think it does so for good reason, to remind me that planning to study is not the same as actually studying! What a shocker, I know!
It seems so self-evident when you put it that way, right? Still, I continue to fall into the same trap. I plan a perfect strategy, sit back and think, "This plan is so good, I've basically already passed, may as well go to the beach!"
Trust me, set your plan, and follow it!"
Lee Zammit's Tip:
"I start revising now. Make some time every day to start going over your notes. Concentrate on things you're not sure of. Remember, take a break to recharge!"
3. Make a hot drink.
Josh has found "During these colder months, a little warmth can go a long way. For most of us, putting the kettle on means lots of different things. A visit from a friend, a sleepy head first thing in the morning, warmth in the afternoon, or sleepytime tea before bed. To me, it means work time. Once I hear the water boiling, the computer goes on, and with a fresh cup of coffee in hand, I'm ready to get productive (particularly on a colder day). A hot drink isn't just a mood enhancer, there are physical benefits too!
A hot drink can help keep you hydrated, but let's face it; water is pretty dull. As a kid, my parents used to trick me into eating veggies by mushing them into my spag bol. Now, I trick myself into drinking water by disguising it as a delicious tea."
This is one of our tips on our Exam Prep Checklist for staying focused.
4. Use productivity apps.
A productivity app is any piece of software that makes your job easier by allowing you to get more work done in less time. These apps are worth having; they might not all be technically labeled as "productivity apps," but each of them will help save you precious time when used.
· HubSpot CRM,
· Hootsuite and
5. Limit social media during study.
Another one of our tips to help you stay focused while you're studying and could be the main reason for procrastination. Think about it, how often do you scroll through Instagram, Facebook, TikTok? Answer: A lot
Josh, whose apart of our team at LEXSA had this to say "Many of us are guilty of being distracted by keeping one eye on social media, and the other on whatever task is at hand. No matter how we try to sell it to ourselves, the reality is, if we only have 50% of our focus on what we are doing, we are likely to be not doing it well.
I've lost count of how many times I have lost focus because of messages coming in or just a side glance at my phone, which led to a full-on scroll session. Do you really need to answer that message right now? Can it wait for 15 minutes? These days I know I can't resist, so I just turn it off. It's easier and really does make a difference to my output."
If you find it difficult to stop scrolling, try turning off your notifications in the Settings App. You could also turn your phone face down or put it in Aeroplane mode. What's your tip to limit your social media use? Tell us in the comments below!
6. Listen to music that keeps you focused.
For some of us, music is a great way to help us stay focused. For others, it may be a form of procrastination and that's okay. We all have different ways to help us study.
Our Events and Engagement Coordinator had this to say "I need music in my life, and I have a playlist for everything; cleaning, partying, cheering myself up, reminiscing, raging out, driving, washing up, thinking, and of course, studying. Actually, that list barely scratches the surface for all the different reasons, moods and activities I have a playlist expressly set up to accompany me on that little journey.
I often hear classical music is best for study, but sometimes I wonder if people just tell me that so they sound "cultured." I'm sure you can tell reading this I ain't the cultured type, and when I try to listen to classical music, it just kind of stresses me out. Lately, my go-to has been to go to youtube.com/ and head straight for the Chillstep playlists.
For me, Chillstep is perfect! Nice slow-paced, background music I can vibe to without finding myself singing along like I do when listening to any of my other playlists. Headphones go on, Chillstep starts playing, and I forget about the world outside uni for a few hours. Then, take off the headphones and zoom back to the world stoked by how much I have done (caution, does not work for watching lectures haha!)"
Tell us below in the comments if you listen to music while you study. Do you have a favourite playlist, artist or song?
Krystle Schultz's Tip:
"Chocolate, a tidy desk, highlighters and exam notes!"
7. Notice when you are procrastinating
We all have heard of and probably deal with procrastination regularly. Some worst than others but the solution is always the same.
Josh has dealt with procrastination before and had this to say "Procrastination is a beast, I battle with daily. Phycologists see procrastination as avoidance behavior "gone awry." This is because often, people avoid the hard thing in favour of the easier, more pleasurable thing. Basically, a person starts feeling anxious, nervous about a difficult or important task that sits ahead of them so they reach for an alternate task
- the act of procrastination is a way of giving yourself a little "gift" of doing something later. it is a subconscious reward you give yourself. By saying "yep I will do this later" you feel relief as you dont need to work on this hard/difficult thing right now and its your future self who has to worry. Once you identify that the little reward of doing it later is actually a hinderance and only makes things worse, it becomes easier to decide to ignore the instinct and get to work.
We found this TED Talk on YouTube called Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator. If you feel the need to procrastinate, you might enjoy watching this:
8. Practice old exams
Josh, part of our team at LEXSA and whose also studying found that "...using past exams easily to be the best way to get ready for upcoming ones. Often your unit assessor will post them on Blackboard (MySCU) to download. Do as many different ones as possible as getting used to the process of answering exam questions can be as useful as organising the knowledge."
Christa Dale's Tip:
"I usually skim over the text book if there is one, I look through the chapter objectives/summary and make sure I have some understanding of them!"
9. Ask someone to quiz me.
Another tip on the importance of getting help if you need it. There are lots of students in your class who are all going through the same experience you are right now. Why not ask one of them to quiz you and you can return the favour? Amelia's tip below is a great resource to use while you're quizzing someone.
"Flash cards! They’re easy to make and then I have them with me whenever and wherever to look over for study"
Josh has found this during his studies "Repetition, repetition, repetition can sometimes be the key, especially for fields like Osteo and Accounting where you have to memorise key elements in order to do well. Again, practice exams here can be a useful tool."
10. Take regular breaks
Part of our team here at LEXSA, Josh had this to say "Ever since I discovered the Pomodoro method of study, I have used it every time I really need to focus.
The Pomodoro Technique is probably one of the simplest productivity methods to implement. All you'll need is a timer, a pen and some paper.. beyond that, there are no special apps, books or tools required. Cirillo's book, The Pomodoro Technique, is a helpful read, but Cirillo himself doesn't hide the core of the method behind a purchase. Here's how to get started with Pomodoro in five steps:
Choose a task to be accomplished.
Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break
That "longer break" is usually on the order of 15-30 minutes, whatever it takes to make you feel recharged and ready to start another 25-minute work session. Repeat that process a few times over the course of a workday, and you actually get a lot accomplished — and take plenty of breaks to grab a cup of coffee or refill your water bottle.
It's important to note that a Pomodoro is an indivisible unit of work — that means if you're distracted part-way by a family member, friend, coworker, meeting or emergency, you either have to end the Pomodoro there (saving your work and starting a new one later), or you have to postpone the distraction until the Pomodoro is complete. If you can do the latter, Cirillo suggests the "inform, negotiate and call back" strategy:
Inform the other (distracting) party that you're working on something right now.
Negotiate a time when you can get back to them about the distracting issue in a timely manner.
Schedule that follow-up immediately.
Call back the other party when your Pomodoro is complete and you're ready to tackle their issue.
Of course, not every distraction is that simple, and some things demand immediate attention. Sometimes, it's perfectly fine to tell the other party "I'm in the middle of something right now, but can I get back to you in.... 10 minutes?" Doing so doesn't just keep you in the groove, it also gives you control over your workday."
Tegan Simon's Tip:
"I always have a plan of how much work I do. Even if it’s a solid half an hour then, have a break + a reward! (skittles) 😂"
Did you find these tips useful? If we missed any, share them with us and other readers in the comment section below. Other than that, thank you for reading our blog! We hope these tips help you stay focused while you're studying and preparing for your upcoming exams.
Don't forget to download our free Exam Prep Checklist below