Exam season is a time when stress levels are higher than usual. Stress can be positive, helping you stay motivated and focused. But too much stress can be unhelpful, and it can make you feel overwhelmed, confused, exhausted and edgy.
During exam time, it’s important to try and keep things in perspective and find ways of reducing stress. The key is to maximize your study time without increasing your anxiety.
Keep a study area. Having a good study area can make a huge impact on how well you learn. Study in a well lit, quiet area, away from noises and other people. If this is impossible, it might be better to study at the library. Make sure your desk or the table you study at is tidy and organized. This will help you concentrate on studying and learning instead of trying to find information.
Find out more about the exam. Find out what format the exam will take. Will it be an essay test, short answer or multiple-choice? Will your professor let you use your notes or textbooks during the exam? You might also want to find out how the exam will be graded, and what percentage of your final grade will be affected by your score on the exam. Knowing this information will help you study effectively.
Make a to-do list. Make a to-do list before each study session. Breaking tasks down into small, manageable tasks will make studying less overwhelming. Cross them off with a pen as you go.
Study past tests. Ask your teacher for your old tests and papers. These can be helpful insight into what your exam will be like, and they can also provide a guide for which areas you excel in and which you need to concentrate on more. If possible, ask your teacher to give you some practice questions and have him or her grade your answers.
Join a study group. Forming a studying group with your classmates can be a helpful way to revise your notes and work through past exam questions. It can also help you feel supported, and keep you motivated and focused. If you have questions about your work, members of your study group might know the answers. Ask your teacher if he or she knows of classmates who are interested in studying with other people.
Switch the phone and e-mail off. If you find that you are being distracted by the phone, e-mails or the Internet, it might help to put the answering machine on or get others in the house to take messages for a while. You can always call people back later. If you don’t need to study at the computer, try to stay away from it, so you can avoid being distracted by the Internet.
Wallpaper your room. Write down key concepts you have to learn on small sheets of paper. Post these sheets around your house in places that you normally go, like above your bed, on the bathroom door or in front of the refrigerator. Wallpapering can help you remember things like equations, quotes and foreign languages. If you share a room, this might not be feasible. You might try using index cards that create a flash card system for easy review.
Ask lots of questions of your teacher or tutor. Your teacher or tutor can help if you’re having trouble developing a study routine or if you need help understanding a particular topic. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re stupid—it’s smart to tap into their experience and knowledge to help you perform better. Keep going back to them if you’re still unsure or if you have more questions. It’s their job to be available to you.
Know your preferred learning style. Some people learn better by listening, while others learn visually. Which are you? Think about how you comprehend what your teacher says in class, and this can help you study more effectively. For example, if you find that you’re more of an audio learner, you might want to record your teacher’s lectures on a recorder and listening to them while you’re studying. If you’re a visual learner, you might want to make flash cards.
Take regular breaks. Getting up and moving around away from your desk for 10 minutes at least every 50 minutes makes you concentrate and learn better.
Avoid procrastination. Procrastination happens when you do everything but the task you need to do. It’s normal to procrastinate a little. But too much procrastination can just add to your stress and can result in you not having enough time to prepare. Managing your time and setting realistic goals for each study session can be helpful ways to avoid procrastinating and make tasks seem less overwhelming.
Make a study timetable. Write down all the things you need to do each day of the week, and how long you need for each, including time for enough sleep, relaxation, and exercise. Find out the date of each exam and work out a study timetable leading up to them. Include the time you’ll spend taking pre-tests that will help you identify gaps in your knowledge. This can give you some direction and help you focus on what to study each week or day.
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