The lead up to exams can be a stressful time, however, it’s important to stay calm and retain your focus. One of the easiest ways to do that is to get organized. To get off to a great start with your exam preparation, simply try these five tested and proven tips that have helped many students improve exam scores.
Create a dedicated exam study space
Your study environment directly affects your productivity, so having a proper setup is more important than you would think.
As for where you should sit, you would want to be comfortable, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep (so avoid studying in bed). Choose a desk and chair (an ergonomic one if possible) that are at the right height so you can maintain a good, upright posture while you study. Also, adjust the lighting so that your study space is well-lit so you don’t feel unmotivated and sleepy. Background noise can affect your concentration as well, so make sure you eliminate distractions such as traffic, by moving to a quieter spot or if that’s not possible, listen to music that helps you stay focused.
If your study space is cluttered and disorganized, you’ll probably find it impossible to focus. Ensure that you have all the study materials you need neatly placed on your desk or at least within reach, so you don’t have to get up, walk far and get distracted along the way. Though it’s a good idea to be a minimalist when it comes to your study space, you can still add a few things to spruce it up! For example, indoor plants can filter toxins out of the air and reduce computer eye strains, and artwork with motivational quotes give you an extra boost.
Better time management when studying for exams
You’ve probably heard this many times, but don’t procrastinate and cram for your exams the night before. Cramming causes anxiety, which lowers your ability to retain information.
Ideally, create a term calendar with weekly and daily schedules. This will give you a good idea of how much time you have left to study for upcoming exams. On top of that, with your other assignment deadlines and activities marked, you will be able to create blocks of study time that work for you. Keep these blocks to about an hour, specifically, 50 minutes of studying with a ten-minute break. However, the duration may be longer or shorter based on the subject and your ability to focus. Ultimately, the more you have these blocks of study time in your schedule the better, because you’re repeatedly studying the same exam materials – spaced repetition, and it’s proven that the more frequently you’re exposed to information, the better you remember it.
Making a list to prioritize the tasks you need to complete when studying for your exams is also a good way to stay organized and focused. You could be tested on a number of things on an exam and oftentimes you would have to provide your answers in different ways (hence study using different methods), such as diagrams, long answers and proofs. It could feel overwhelming, but if you split up the work into very simple steps and tackle the most difficult one first, then you will find that it’s easier than you’d thought.
If you need help to plan ahead, there are a few apps that you could try. StayFocusd is an application that you can use to block certain websites, which is handy for those who tend to get distracted by social media, such as Facebook. RescueTime is a time management app that monitors your time spent on different tasks. There’s also Todoist, which can help you to organize all of your to-do tasks as you’re doing exam preparation.
Use active studying methods
Simply reading and re-reading your study notes is not enough, because you’re not actively engaging with the material; as a result, you will only forget it before the exam. To actively engage with study materials is to construct meaning from text or diagrams that involves making connections to lectures, devise new examples and regulating your own learning. Here are some ideas for active studying:
- Create your own mini exams, sorted by topics.
- Teach the material to someone else. Saying the information aloud in your own words will help you to solidify your understanding.
- Form examples that relate to your own experiences.
- Create visual aids – concept maps or diagrams – that explain the material.
- For technical classes (i.e. Math, Sciences), work the problems and explain the steps and why they work.
- For non-technical classes (i.e. English, History), unravel the big ideas so you can explain, contrast, re-evaluate and even them to smaller concepts.
Here are several other effective ways to review for your exams, one of which was devised by a professor at Cornell University.
Look after your health during the exam period
You’ve heard this many times before, but let us say it again. You will be able to perform better if you eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep and stay exercise regularly. It’s important to look after yourself during study and exam time. If you’re not at your peak, you won’t be able to concentrate, nor will you have the energy to power through your studies and exams. Your memory is likely to decline and it would be harder for you to recall study materials.
Eat well-balanced meals and snacks that contain brain foods, such as nuts, fish, fruits and vegetables, and stay hydrated. Don’t be tempted to skip meals or survive on fast-food; it will only make you feel sluggish and may even make yourself ill. Make sure you get an average sleep of 8 hours per night and definitely do not pull an all-nighter the night before your exam. Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day will help relieve stress and anxiety because it enhances the blood flow to your brain, which will allow you to think more clearly.
Hire an online tutor for extra support
If you need extra support find an online exam preparation tutor on the TutorOcean platform. The TutorOcean online classroom has a video chat feature that mimics face-to-face conversations with a tutor. There is also an interactive whiteboard on the screen so students can upload documents, make notes, and collaborate with their tutor in real-time, and makes exam simulation possible as well. Ultimately, a tutor works with students on specific problem areas and give them a much-needed boost of confidence ahead of their exams.
Not only can tutors help you get better grades, but they can also help you get ahead, stay on track, and excel in your courses.