With final exams just weeks away students and scholars around the country are rushing to get everything they need to understand in their heads, as fast as possible. Ideally, you have been following our guide to better studying and have been pacing yourself all year to learn everything you need to pass, but we are realistic to know this is not always possible.
According to Study International, 70% of students will engage in the kind of procrastination that leaves them studying at the last minute, sometimes up to the doors of the exam hall opening. The good news is that this can still work and these are the tips that will make it most effective.
As counter intuitive as it may seem, the first step in successful cramming is to organise the time you have left. Taking an hour to plan out how you are going to study will save you a great deal of stress, worry and anxiety that comes with madly trying to force everything into your head. You should divide your time into three categories: 1) Familiarising yourself with the material 2) Active learning – this should involve you making mind maps of the work and rewriting your notes. 3) Reinforce what you have learnt. We will go into this third step a little more in-depth later, but essentially it means testing yourself on what you have done.
Most exams take place early in the morning, so getting up early now in the days before the test will prepare your brain to be active at that stage of the morning. You will feel like you need to be awake as early as possible and go to bed as late as possible, but this won’t help overall. Starting early, working hard all day, and getting a good night’s rest knowing you woke up and did your best, is much better when it comes to exam preparation.
Make sure your work desk is as uncluttered as possible, turn your phone off and tell your friends you are busy from now until the exams are over. The aim is to give yourself as much focused time as possible on the work. All year you have been getting distracted, which is how you have wound up in this place, but now you have just days left. Telling yourself these days will pass whether or not you work hard, and you might as well get good marks, will help you to focus. It’s really just a few more days.
There is absolutely no way you are going to learn the entire textbook now so you need to focus on the weakest areas first. Test yourself by taking an old exam and seeing in which areas you struggle the most. If you can, try study from notes and slides, particularly those prepared by the lecturer. The lecturer didn’t make those slides for no reason, they made them because they think they are important. Rework the notes until you believe you understand them and only look up any phrases or ideas that you don’t understand in your textbook.
We told you we were coming back to this. Reinforcing what you have learnt can be done in two main ways; taking old exams and explaining your work to others. Having taken an exam before you can now compare how you have done before cramming with now and then refocus again on the stuff that’s still lacking. Alternatively, try explaining your work to a friend. Teaching someone something is a great way to discover the holes in your own knowledge. Now you can go back and study the gaps.
Most people when cramming are guzzling Redbulls or setting their alarm for 3am. If you can avoid this you should as your memory is optimised when you are healthy and well rested. Make sure you drink plenty of water, eat healthily and exercise as all three will keep you feeling fresh and help you to sleep at night. It will also help you to retain all that knowledge that you are trying to fit in at the last minute.
Most of all, it’s important that you stay calm. Getting anxious and allowing yourself to become stressed isn’t going to help you now. You need to accept the position that you are in and follow the steps above. These exams aren’t over, until they are over.
Of course, exercise, healthy food, WiFi and a goodnight’s rest are all found in one place – The Fields. With shops and a gym literally downstairs, uncapped free Wi-Fi, well-appointed study facilities and your own comfy bed, The Fields is the place for students to do their absolute best – even if it is at the last minute. Contact us today.
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