Make a realistic study plan that you can mostly stick to, with a bell-curve shape that starts light, gets more intense towards the middle and eases off towards the end. Tick off, highlight or scrunch up a post it for each topic you cover, to remind yourself how much work you are doing. If you miss a session don’t beat yourself up about it as this can further decrease motivation-- just carry on to the next session.
Your workspace can have a big impact on how well you work. Most people find they work better in a tidy, comfortable space with minimal distractions. Find somewhere that works for you. It may help to go somewhere else, like a campus study room, library, quiet café or even a park. This helps to create a sense of specific purpose to what you are doing.
The brain works in cycles of concentration. The duration of these cycles vary from person to person but the result is the same – at some point we stop retaining the knowledge. Rather than using an increasing amount of effort to counter this, take a break. Go for a walk, make a drink, make a sandwich - anything to let your brain reset before you start again. This allows you to expend your effort in the most effective way and will help to keep motivation high.
Your brain is an extremely greedy organ. Even at rest it uses 20% of all your energy, and this increases with mentally taxing activities such as revision or exams. Make sure it has all the energy it needs by eating a healthy meal of complex carbohydrate and protein-rich foods, such as eggs, nuts, whole grains and fruit and veg.
Avoid sugar and caffeine, which may provide a short term boost but can lead to energy levels crashing quickly.
Revision can be a rather lonely task, but there is nothing to say that it can’t be done collaboratively. Working with a study partner can have numerous benefits, such as increased motivation, opportunity to ask each other questions and explain ideas, and a greater sense of achievement in the session. It’s also just generally more fun
Studying is hard. Recognise this by giving yourself regular rewards for hard work. Watch some TV, chat with a friend, check your phone for 5 minutes or play a game. This works as both an intrinsic reward for hard work and to manage your impulses to do those things instead of studying. Just remember to set a reminder for when you need to go back to work!
One frequent complaint about revision and study is that it can be boring and monotonous, but this needn’t be the case. In fact, we learn best when our brains are engaged in something novel. The more creative you can make your study, the better the chance that the knowledge will be retained. This could mean making diagrams, using different colour pens or post-it notes, creating rhymes, even explaining theories or ideas to patient friends or family members (or even the family pet!).
We learn best by doing. The closer your practise is to the real thing, the more value it will have. For exams, this means practising past papers in the same conditions as the exam. This will show you where any potential weaknesses lie and will help you to feel prepared for how the real thing will feel.
It may seems obvious that the more work you put in beforehand, the better you will perform in your exams, but cramming the night before can actually be detrimental to your performance. Your brain function is at its lowest late at night, making learning difficult, and being tired in your exam could cost you vital marks. Instead, plan to stop at a reasonable time the night before, get a great night’s sleep, and be fresh and ready for action the next day.
Be prepared – Exams are usually stressful enough, so don’t add to this by being underprepared on the day. Get anything you need ready the day before. Make sure you have plenty of spare pens. Get up with plenty of time and plan to get there early to allow for any unexpected transport issues. Finally, remember to put any electronic devices away securely.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or would like more information on coping with exam stress, contact our Student Wellbeing Officer Richard Kaminski