Procrastination is the art of putting off until later what you could do right now. We all do it but unfortunately it’s one of the most common reasons for poor performance during exams. If you want to ace your exams then studying needs to be the most important thing you do.
So how do you make it a priority? Check out these strategies to help you stay on track for exams.
Own your study space
Creating good study habits relies on finding a space in which you can be most productive. This may be somewhere quiet where you’re on your own or it may even be in a space where you are surrounded by people and noise. Some people listen to music while others require absolute silence to study. Whatever works for you. The key is to find your preferred space and stick with it so you can create a consistent study routine.
Make a plan
It seems obvious but careful planning is essential for effective exam preparation. Make sure you know exactly what is going to be covered in each exam – check Blackboard for unit outlines and any other information about the weeks or topics included in the exam. Then plan out each day of your study period by dividing your available time into chunks of 30 mins to 1 hour. For each time slot plan what unit and topic you are going to revise. You can break this down even further by creating a checklist for each topic and ticking things off as you go.
Once you have a plan in place the next step is to arrange all your notes from lectures, tutorials and readings into some kind of logical order. Use unit outlines and lecture topics to organise your notes and rewrite the main points. Try and add diagrams and mind maps to connect the content where possible. If you don’t understand something or need more information then do some research so that you feel more confident about answering any quesions about the content. Summarise each topic further to about 2-5 pages by rewriting only the major points. Then just before the exam condense your notes down to one page.
One of the best ways to revise content is to test yourself or have someone else test you. Access any practice exams that have been provided and use chapter quizes from your textbooks to help with sample questions. Create a bank of questions or use flascards to keep checking your knowledge and understanding. You can use apps such as Quizlet or stick to hardcopy cards to carry around with you. This is an effective way of identifying gaps and prioritsing which topics your need to spend more time on.
Take a break from social media
We all know that surfing the net and social media can take up huge amounts of our time. You might start out checking a few messages and then find yourself spending a couple of hours scrolling through social media or watching videos. Why not take a complete break during exam time so that you can focus on your revision? If you can’t give it up altogether then make it part of your daily study plan so there’s a limit to how long you spend online. For example, allocate an hour at night or at lunch time when you need a break from study.
Access resources and support
Sometimes the stress of preparing for exams can lead to anxiety, depression and fear which stops you from being productive. If you find yourself struggling emotionally reach out to family, friends, peers or uni support services.
You can also access free, confidential counselling by qualified professionals.
Check out other QUT resources for successful exam prep.
Write Up is a wonderful support service for students and I feel so lucky to be one of the facilitators for the team.
We get students to work together, give feedback and provide support for understanding, responding and structuring assignment tasks, checking and integrating research, and help with language.
So far, we’ve had students from a wide array of faculties, and I thought I would share the most common issues that students have asked us for help with.
Here are my top three writing tips
1. Before you even set pen to paper, get organised! Gather all your resources together from your tutes and lectures (especially your assignment task sheet with the criteria!). Now you’re all set to begin. Your task sheet is your treasure map. It is your guide to what you need to cover in your assignment.
2. Keep your sentences short for clarity—if you see any sentences that are running over 3 or 4 lines, it’s time to break them up with full stops!
3. Always be specific about the ‘subject’ of your sentence and who you are referring to. For example, if you are currently referring to your theorists as ‘they’, it’s time to use their name, or be more specific about their role. Make your writing as clear for the reader as you can. If you only use words like ‘they’ or ‘she/he’ the reader won’t know if you’re talking about the ‘nurses’ or the ‘patients’. Don’t make them guess!
We look forward to seeing you in one of our Write Up sessions.
They’re fun and helpful and we can’t wait to meet you all.
Write Up facilitator
Now more than ever we’re being asked to embrace technology and step out of our comfort zones to present information online. There are so many amzaing tools out there to create a presentaion but it takes a bit of work for most of us to actually feel confident in front of a camera. Trial and error can be the best way to get comfortable with new technology but it also helps to have a plan.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Create a clear focus with 1-3 key message(s).
Revise your drafts and edit out unnecessary content.
Make notes for each screen / section.
Think about how you are going to engage the audience.
Practise timing of spoken presentation.
Like any presentation the key is preparation. This means getting started early and planning.
Become familiar with the technology (eg. Zoom, Viva Voce, Collaborate etc)
Screen sharing and presenter view.
Playing an embedded video (if relevant).
Using a spotlight or highlight on a speaker.
Setting up and testing audio and video.
No matter which web conferencing software you use the key is understanding its features. Make sure you know how to control the following:
Set everything up fully to achieve the best results
It’s also important to choose a suitable location for your presentation. Make sure you find a space which is quiet and has good lighting. This may mean booking a study room in the library or going to a friend’s house when they’re out. If at home let others know that you are presenting live or recording so you’re not interrupted.
Before you start, think about your appearance.
Wear appropriate clothing – smart casual (no PJs!).
Angle your camera just above eye level to frame your shoulders and face.
Keep your face well-lit with natural light, or place a lamp behind the camera, towards your face.
Remove personal items or anything visible in the background.
Do a final check of the technology.
Test earphones, phone camera or webcam.
Close down all unnecessary browsers, windows or apps and turn notifications off.
Have notes ready (printed or in presenter view).
Test slideshare settings in presenter view.
Check the audio and video settings.
Log into the web meeting on another device to check the audience view.
Practise making a short recording then watch it back.
Pause when you transition between slides or present complex information.
Speak from notes rather than ‘reading’.
Breath and smile as you talk.
Follow assessment task instructions carefully.
Don’t forget to hit record!
Tips for pre-recording your presentation
Some assessment tasks require you to record your presentation and upload the file. The same principles apply but you may need to do things a bit differently when pre-recording.
Whether you’re presenting in person or online being a clear, confident and engaging communicator is an essential skill to have so it’s worth investing some time and energy into it.
When writing university assignments you have to acknowledge quotations, information and ideas taken from other authors. At QUT the four commonly used styles for citing and referencing are APA, Harvard, AGLC and Vancouver. APA Style is used in many disciplines but it is most commonly required in Health and Education.
This online tutorial has been adapted from APA’s tool for teaching and learning effective writing. It takes you through the basics of seventh edition APA Style, including format, and organisation; academic writing style; grammar and usage; tables and figures; in-text citations, paraphrasing, and quotations; and reference list format and order.
You can also find more information on seventh edition APA Style in the official Publication Manual (7th ed.) and the Style and Grammar Guidelines section of the APA Style website.
These days there are also heaps of tools that can help you manage your readings and referencing. While they might seem to make things quicker and easier, it’s important to know that they are not 100% reliable. Make sure you fully understand the elements and construction of citing and referencing.
Detailed examples can be found on QUT cite|write which has been designed to help you create references that meet the requirements of the university and your specific units. For EVERY assessment task you do make sure you check the task instructions carefully and ask your lecturer/tutor if you are not sure which style you need to use.
Nearly time to submit that assignment? You’re probably sick of looking at it but don’t let basic errors and typos affect your grade. Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process which focuses on surface errors such as mistakes in spelling, grammar, citation and punctuation. Take time to do a last minute proofread to look for those all-important details. Here are our top tips for proofreading.
Use Tools on Word
As a starting point use the tools available to you such as the Editor (hit F7) in Word which checks spelling, grammar and style. Set your Proofing Language to Australian English (AU) by finding ‘Language’ in the Review menu and selecting the required language. This will underline any words that are not spelled correctly so that you can correct them if necessary. Just remember that some terminology may not come up in a spellcheck so it’s always best to confirm you have it right.
Print a Copy
No doubt you’ve already spent weeks staring at a computer screen so your eyes need a break. It can really help to print your essay out and make changes with a different colour on the hard copy. Changing the format of your writing will help you to pick up all those little errors that you didn’t notice when your were writing and editing.
It sounds simple but reading your writing out loud can help you to identify grammatical errors as well as content that is incorrect or confusing. If you notice any particularly long sentences, think about where they could be split to make your points clearer. Complex sentences may sound impressive, but they often leave the reader wondering what your main point is.
Check your Citations
Always refer to your task instructions and QUT cite|write for accurate citing and referencing information. Check each citation as you go and make sure it follows the examples given exactly. Don’t forget to check the placement of the parentheses, commas and full stops.
Take Micro Breaks!
Writing is hard work so it’s important to take regular breaks throughout the process. Plan to have five-minute breaks every half hour to allow your brain to work at its best. If possible, go outside and get some fresh air to avoid feeling sleepy. Also, make sure you stay hydrated with plenty of water to help you work at your best!
Proofreading can be tedious but it’s worth investing time into ensuring your writing is error-free and meets the assessment task requirements.
It’s safe to say that we’ll all be joining live online sessions through one of the many tools avaiable. Whether it’s through Collaborate Ultra, Zoom, Skype or another platform it helps to know what’s expected and how you can participate successfully.
Before the session
Find a quiet space where you can concentrate fully.
Make sure you have a reliable Internet connection.
If possible use a USB headset with a microphone.
Test the audio and video before you start.
Make sure you are familiar with the platform controls etc.
Add a profile image to create a friendlier more connected environment (nothing too weird!).
In the session
Mute your microphone and turn off your video when you join.
Check to see if there are any instrcutions or starter activities on screen.
Introduce yourself (if appropriate) or say your name when you speak for the first time.
Avoid interrupting other speakers and mute your mic while wiaiting.
Use the platform features such as chat or raising your hand to ask questions.
Audio and video tips
Don’t shout into your mic – just speak clearly in your normal voice.
Only turn on video when necessary or instructed to do so.
Position your webcam so the top half of your body is visible.
Be aware of what is behind you when your camera’s on. We can all see it!!!
Avoid busy virtual backgrounds – a plain background is best.
In some ways it’s easier to hide in an online session but the same manners apply as they do in person.
Be polite, respect others and be prepared to contribute!
Are you finding it hard to study online? Sitting behind a screen can make you feel alone but the good news is that these days you have more ways to connect than ever before. Here are a few things you can do to stay fully connected with your course.
Make a study plan
Study takes time and effort so it’s important to plan your week. Make a weekly schedule of sessions to attend or participate in and the amount of time you plan to spend on each unit. Don’t forget to include deadlines for assessment tasks. Commit yourself to specific times to do the set reading, review your notes, conduct research and prepare for the weekly content in each unit. Be ready to participate in online discussion and ask questions.
It’s so important to log in to Blackboard daily and check your QUT email. Staying up to date with unit announcements, new discussion posts and content will help you learn as well as deepen your connection with the online community. Develop your own strategy for working through the resources and posts so that you keep on top of anything new.
Set yourself up for success by contributing to online discussions, asking questions, and responding to fellow students. The more you engage, the more you’ll feel connected to your peers as well as the content. Make the most of apps, discussion boards, videos and other technology that helps you get involved. Make an effort to interact with your lecturers, tutors and peers whenever you have the opportunity. It’s easy to sit back and remain passive but that won’t get you the results you’re after!
One of the best things about being a student is that you’re never alone! Take advantage of fellow students who truly understand the pressure of study because they’re experiencing it too. Use this opportunity to work with and learn from others. Group work can give you a wide range of perspectives and help strengthen your own knowledge. Make the most of the technology available to set up a virtual study group.
As a QUT student you have access to so many wonderful resources and support networks. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, but the first step is often just asking a simple question. HiQ Chat is a good starting point for general questions or Chat with a Librarian for information on resources, research and referencing.
So, don’t let sitting in front of a screen prevent you from feeling connected to your study. Make the most of your peers, university staff and technology to successfully study online.
There’s so much you can do to make exam time easier. Preparation is truly the key to exam success, yet the reality is, many students leave revision until the week, or night before the exam itself.
Here are a few common strategies to help get you in the zone:
Before the exam
Plan out your time using a study planner or time management app.
Try to remove distractions so you remain focused.
Make notes and then make notes of notes.
Find out what type of exam it is and if there are past papers you can look at.
Check where and what your exam is and note the details.
Check Blackboard for notes or guides from your lecturers on what to study.
Eat healthily and sleep well, also try to limit your alcohol intake.
Exercise and look after yourself.
Study with friends.
The night before the exam – pack the things you need in your bag: pens, pencils, calculator, water, student ID, snacks and briefly look over your notes. Set an alarm and then allow yourself time to relax.
On the day of the exam – leave home early, take your bag, and remember to breathe.
During the exam
Read all the questions and if allowed, mark the ones you are confident answering.
When allowed, write down anything you can think of in bullet point form while reading the exam paper.
Look at how much questions are worth, allocate your time, and answer accordingly.
Work logically through the questions you know you can answer and then work on the remaining questions.
Don’t get distracted by other people. They have their own strategy for answering questions, so you shouldn’t compare yourself with them.
Check out QUT’s guide for preparing for exams to access more resources.
Exams coming up? For most of us the pressure of exams and final assessment submissions cause some level of stress. Stress is your response to pressure and while a small amount can be useful to keep you focused if it becomes too much exam revision can seem impossible.
The good news is that there are so many apps out there to help deal with this intense time:
Exam Countdown is a free app to keep track of exam and assessment dates. It provides a handy visual reminder of all your important upcoming dates. You can keep focused by easily checking how much time you’ve got to revise before you sit each exam. We love the fact that you can colour code all your exams and tests and use icons as a quick visual reference for each unit. You can also add notes to remind yourself of anything you need to bring on the day. Available on both Android and iOS.
Mind mapping is a great study method as it helps organise your thoughts, spark your memory and come up with new ideas. With SimpleMind you can create your own mind maps, or choose one of the auto layouts and fill it in. If you like finding creative ways to revise for exams then this app is for you. The free version does plenty but the full version is reasonably priced too. Available on all platforms.
Studies show that meditation can help you stay on task longer, switch between things less frequently and enjoy your tasks more. Headspace is a popular app, with meditations to help you through all phases of your life. The Focus pack can help you de-clutter your thoughts and sharpen your concentration, even under pressure. Try the free version or access hundreds of hours of extra content when you subscribe.
Take a deep breath. Calm is both a call to action and a defining feature of the app’s approach to mindfulness and meditation. It’s message is simply “you’re going to get through this, and all you need to start is a moment”. There are so many new apps for meditation and mindfulness, but Calm stands out for its ease of use and attention to (soothing) detail. Try the free version on Android or iOS.
PAUSE is based on the ancient principles of Tai Chi and mindfulness practice. When you want to shake off your stress and start relaxing, this app can work wonders. Against a backdrop of soothing music, you move your finger slowly across your screen, being careful not to speed up your pace. This triggers the body’s ‘rest and digest’ response which helps you regain focus and release stress within minutes. Check it out on Android or iOS!
Don’t forget that QUT also provides free, confidential counselling services for current students!
We all know that one of the keys to student success is being organised but it’s not always easy to achieve. Most of us are trying to balance study with work, family, sport, socialising and other commitments so it often feels like a juggling act. Luckily there’s a range of free online tools to help you feel organised in all areas of your life.
We’ve chosen a few of our favourite apps to get you started:
In the second half of semester assessments can take priority but it’s also important to plan for exams. Exam Countdown helps you organise and prioritise your time in the lead up to exams.
Todoist links with the apps you already use so that you have one central, organised hub for getting things done.
Take your notes everywhere and access them across all of your devices with Evernote. You can also add photos and audio recordings to help revise for each of your units.
Use Brainscape to create your own flashcards of terminology or key theories and test yourself. You can also share your lists and browse existing cards. This is great for medical terminology in particular.
Music makes the world go round and it has also been proven to help you focus. Find your own study playlist on Spotify to help you get in the zone.
And remember to look after your wellbeing with some stress busters. Calm is an amazing app for wellbeing and mindfulness with 100+ guided meditations.
Don’t forget, if you feel that you have too much to cope with it’s ok to ask for help. QUT has a range of support resources and confidential counseling.