Getting over that final hurdle : Exam Prep

It’s that time of year again, when the end of the year is so close you can almost touch it, but before you can really relax, you have to deal with the dreaded final exams. We wouldn’t blame you if you felt like doing this:

But before you do, remember that the end is in sight, and before you know it, you’ll be kicking back on the beach, exams a distant memory. Here are a few hints for avoiding stress and getting through the final weeks of semester.

The easiest way to avoid (or manage) stress in these final weeks is to have a study plan and gather all the important information (such as date, time & location of your exam) as soon as possible so that it doesn’t cause unnecessary panic the night before or the morning of.

Some study tips to help you prepare in the days and weeks before your exam include:

  • Take advantage of the revision questions at the end of chapters in your textbook (if available);
  • Be active, not passive. Avoid just reading over your notes or textbook – highlight, underline, rewrite or create concept maps instead;
  • Revise regularly, not just a couple of days or the day before. The more you revise, the easier it becomes to remember;
  • Make mnemonics (words or sentences to help you remember), charts or flash cards;
  • Eliminate distractions;
  • Chunk your time, and take regular breaks;
  • Write your own exam questions and swap them with a friend.

On the day of your exam:

  • Get to your exam early, and ensure you’ve got the right materials with you, including your student card;
  • Use any perusal time to identify questions you can answer easily and answer these first;
  • Read all questions at least twice;
  • Leave plenty of time to review at the end.

If you’ve run out of time to do much of the above, you might like to check out this structured approach to cramming.

Finding it difficult to get motivated? Try these handy hints from Counselling about overcoming procrastination.

And check out Studywell for tips about preparing for different types of exams, including multiple choice, short answer, and essay.

Quick tips – revising for exams

  1. Create mind maps of the whole subject and each topic.  Memory works better if the information is in a context
  2. Draw diagrams.  Use colour and symbols.  Visual memory is the strongest for most people.
  3. Reduce whole topics down to key facts, definitions, forumulas on one A4 sheet.    It helps you work out what is important and what is detail.
  4. Use flash cards or post-it notes and revise often.  A key to memory is repetition.
  5. Don’t just read your notes.  Write them out and say them out loud.  It’s called multiple sensory input where your brain does not just get visual input but auditory and kinaesthetic input as well.
  6. Write your own exam questions and then answer them.  Information framed as a question means your brain immediately thinks about the answer.  Ask questions of the same type as the exam.
  7. For essay exams write an introductory paragraph for each topic that you can adapt in the exam.  Include key facts/ theories/ideas/arguments.
  8. Use memory aids – acronyms, acrostics, peg-words.  Information is remembered better if linked to something:
  • Acronyms – words created from first letters of a string of terms, e.g. ROYGBIV are the seven colours of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet
  • Acrostics – sentences where the first letter of each word in the sentence is the same as the words you are trying to remember, e.g. “My Very Educated Mother Just Sent Us Nachos” have the same first letters as the planets of the Solar System: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
  • Peg Words – this technique combines a word that rhymes with a number and a word or picture related to the term to be remembered.  It’s useful if you have to remember terms in order or precise numbers, e.g. words related to numbers could be 1-gun, 2-shoe, 3-tree, 4-door, 5-hive, 6-bricks, 7-heaven, 8-plate, 9-wine, 10-hen

For more exam revision tips, check out Studywell