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Exam Preparation and Technique Tips

Preparing for university exams can be a daunting experience that can become overwhelming if you do not know how to properly prepare. To help you get started, take a look at our top techniques and tips for preparing for exams. 

Leave Plenty of Time

When preparing for university exams, one of the most important tips is to leave plenty of time to study rather than cramming your revision in the few days before the exam. Studies have shown that cramming information is less effective than studying over a longer length of time. Starting early will make your revision more manageable and can help reduce stress levels as you will begin to feel more prepared the closer you get to your exam. Leaving more time will allow you to build and study breaks, see your friends and get a good night’s sleep, all of which will have a positive impact on your mental health.   

Create Visual Aids

Many students find adding diagrams, charts, and pictures to their revision materials a great way to help remember information. Consider using mind maps with images to organise your information, as this can help jog your memory when it comes to an exam. Try and reduce the content of each exam question topic into a one-page format that is easy to read and has clear images or diagrams, as this shorter format will help you recall the information more easily.

Teach Others The Topics

Studies have shown that one of the best ways to learn information and retain it is by teaching someone else the topics that you are studying. This could be a family member if you are attending university but living at home, or a friend or flatmate if you are in university accommodation. Begin with reading over your notes beforehand, then try giving them to the person you are working with to test you on them. They will be able to see your notes and identify any areas you have missed out or got wrong. This, in turn, will help highlight areas that still require a bit more work. 

Utilise Study Groups

Another way to share your knowledge with others is to join or create study groups with those on the same course as you. This will allow you to ask questions to others who know the content you are studying or answer any questions that they may have. However, it is important that you ensure you stay on topic for the entire time and do not get distracted. To help with this, try setting a timer that dictates how long you will work for before taking a break to chat together. It may be possible to book a room within your university or library to meet up together and study in a group setting.

Stay Organised

Studying for exams can be overwhelming, especially if you have more than one exam in a short space of time. It is important to find a place where you can study that is quiet and clear. Ensure that the surface you’re working on has enough space for all your books and revision materials and that there are minimal distractions around you. It is also crucial that you are comfortable when you are studying, so a supportive chair that helps your posture is an advantage. 

Organise your notes by topic – for example, by type of question or formula type. Before starting, create a study plan that breaks up your time before the exam into manageable study slots that you can allocate these topics to. This will ensure that you cover all the topics you need to in the time available.   

When studying, you may prefer to work in silence or listen to calming music in the background – whatever works best for you. Additionally, you may find it helpful to set a timer to allow you to break up the study time and take some breaks. This will especially benefit those who struggle to stay focused.

Use Past Paper Questions

Most universities have past exam papers available online. These are invaluable and a great way to prepare for your exams. Not only will it help you see the layout and structure of the exam you will be sitting, but you can also familiarise yourself with the wording of the questions and practice writing your answers for them. It is also a good idea to practice these past paper questions under timed conditions to help reduce the chances of you running out of time in the actual exam. 

Take Regular Breaks

University exams do require a lot of revision, however, this should not mean that you are sitting for hours on end without taking any breaks. This is not the most effective way to study, as your brain cannot cope with this much information all at once. Studies have suggested that taking regular breaks during your studying can increase the amount of information that you retain and allow you to rest. Try and timetable study breaks into your revision plan and ensure that you stick to these timings for optimal results.

Stay Hydrated

It is important to stay as healthy as possible when you are studying in order for your mind and memory to work effectively. Staying hydrated is an essential aspect of this, as dehydration can impact concentration levels. Ensure that you drink plenty of water when you are revising, and also take enough water into the exam with you in order to focus clearly.

Eat Food That Benefits Your Brain

While preparing for exams can be stressful, and you may want to binge on your favourite junk food, this may not be the best solution. Instead, try and eat foods that are good for your brain, will increase your focus, and aid your memory. Foods that do this have high nutritional values and are packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Try adding foods into your diet, such as fish, nuts, fruit, and vegetables. On the day of your exam, it is crucial to ensure that you have a good breakfast to help start your day off correctly. This will ensure that you are awake, focused, and prepared for the day ahead. Try and avoid sugar as much as you can, as although this will give you an energy boost for a short time, the effects will run out quickly, leaving you feeling tired and lethargic. Choosing carbohydrates that slowly release energy will make you feel fuller and better for longer.

Ask for Help

The exam period is one of the most stressful times of the year for university students, with studies identifying an increase in mental health issues at this time. If you do find yourself becoming anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, or depressed about your exams and studying, it is essential to talk to someone to help overcome these challenges. Your university will have mental health support that you can contact, as well as having links with a number of charities who you can talk to and gain advice from. Alternatively, you can also contact your GP if you have concerns about your mental health. The most important thing is not to bottle it up, as this can lead to more serious concerns further down the line. 

Prepare For The Day

One of the ways to cope with the stresses of exams is to ensure that you are fully prepared for the day. This does not just mean revising the content of the exam but also ensuring that getting to your exam is a smooth process. Make sure you have a list of what to bring with you and know where the location of your exam is to avoid any stress or anxiety that may impact your performance.

Ensure you leave enough time to get to the exam if there are delays on your travel route, even if this means you will be there early if everything runs smoothly. Arriving early will allow you to have one final read of your notes and go to the toilet before entering the exam hall.

The Take-Away

It is entirely natural to feel anxiety in the run-up to important university exams. By preparing correctly, however, you will feel more confident in your abilities and, therefore, are more likely to succeed. Start your revision early, creating a study plan from the start that organises the information you need to cover. Ensure that your notes are summarised and include visual aids to increase your levels of retention, and try and discuss the topic with others to increase your understanding. During your exam period, ensure that you are eating the right foods and drinking enough water to stay healthy, as this will aid your concentration and focus levels. Most importantly, if you find yourself getting too overwhelmed, it is important to ask for help and talk it over with someone so that you begin to feel more comfortable. Remember – your well-being should be a priority. 

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