The joy of doing a Master’s degree like mine is that exams (that is, traditional, written ones) are pretty much non-existent. Instead, my days are filled with worrying about assignments, presentations, and (I shudder at the mere thought) my final dissertation.
However, luckily for you, dear reader, is that this is the only year since I was three in which I haven’t had to sit for regular written examinations. All those exams add up, and that makes me quite well-versed in the art of scary exams, particularly those at university level. In addition, after year upon year of taking exams every few months, I have compiled a respectable list of ways in which to bear each unsettling season of stress and cramming.
The following are a few of my very best tips for surviving revision and exam time.
YOUR IDEAL ENVIRONMENT
Create a designated study space, and treat it as such. So when you’re working, you’re sitting in your spot, dutifully studying and absorbing knowledge. When you’re not studying, make sure to get away from your study space, even at mealtimes. This clear distinction will help you associate that space with proper focus and productive studying. It also means that you can eat your lunch in prettier locations, such as by the sea or on a park bench.
Alternatively, ignore what I just said about staying in your study spot exclusively while you’re working, and change location regularly. You probably will not have time for relaxed days out when you’re in study-mode, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot incorporate your studying with being outdoors or in a favourite place. I did some of my most productive studying last year while at the Għanafest, and while that can be very distracting for some people, I revelled in the different environment (as well as nibbling on a fresh maqrut every now and then).
Study snacks! These are imperative. Try to stick to healthier options, but feel free to indulge in a little of your favourite guilty pleasure. I made sure to stock up on lots of a certain hazelnut spread during last year’s June exams…
PLAN POST-EXAM FUN
Use your breaks to plan what you’re going to do once exams are over. Maybe it’s a trip to a music festival abroad, a weekend of camping, or even just the obligatory celebratory swim right after your last exam. Ice-cold alcoholic beverages: optional.
ALL NIGHTERS ARE A BAD IDEA!
There should be absolutely no all-nighters when it comes to exams. Please. Don’t do it. They will mess up your whole week, and you will just kick yourself afterwards. I have tried and tested this a few times, and even if I managed to squeeze some more information into my brain thanks to those extra few hours, I always find myself napping on the paper halfway through the exam and getting an atrocious mark.
EFFECTIVE STUDY METHODS
Try out as many study methods as you can, and find the right one for you. My favourites are condensing my notes as much as possible (and then reading and re-reading these short summaries), and explaining the topics to another person (ideally a classmate, because then you would also be helping out the other person! Win-win).
Also, search online for ‘focus guaranteed’ playlists. You’ll find a selection of never-ending soundtracks which will seamlessly accompany your studying and help you to concentrate on the task at hand.
Most importantly: remember that as a student, it’s your job to learn, as well as an opportunity, so approach studying and revising with as happy a mind-set as you can. There may be a few exams here and there that will feel like complete time-wasters, but on the whole, there is always something new that you will find worth extracting from each subject. It can get very tough and stressful, but get organised ASAP, and try and have fun absorbing all that delicious new knowledge. Best of luck!
(This article originally appeared on www.insiteronline.com on 26 April 2012.)