Exam period is stressful, but the final examination period of your entire degree can be even more overwhelming than expected – which is normal! I recently finished my final exams for my Bachelor’s degree and feel like I have a few tips to share, as I definitely had my fair share of ups and downs throughout my final year.
Develop a study schedule
Develop this schedule before you start the semester, or within the first week of the semester. This schedule should be something you stick by – like a law! Time management, prioritizing certain tasks (i.e. are your learning objectives mainly covered in your weekly readings or your lectures? Which is your absolute priority?), and concrete times for revision are essential to maximize your grades for your exam. Managing your study load through a schedule will also beat exam blues because you would have already learned the content! This tip is definitely a proactive one – so get planning!
Recognize your stress.
Stress is actually a really important thing – without stress, you won’t be motivated to work hard or achieve a certain grade. Stress, at this level, is super helpful. But I encourage anyone who notices that they experience excessive stress, to seek help from a trusted friend, family member, or university counselor. Recognising your stress for what it really is, is the first step towards beating it.
Sleep or Cram?
I am definitely not someone who can cram very effectively – if I haven’t studied throughout the semester, then I’m probably not going to get the best grade. That would be my own fault. So for the night before, I usually do some simple revision and have a good night’s rest. There is lots of research out there that states that effective sleep and rest is essential for any knowledge to be consolidated and concreted in your memory1. So for me, cramming is a big no-no. Revising is great, but learning something for the first time a day before the exam? No. There’s not enough sleep-time to consolidate a whole semester’s worth of content in one night, ha-ha!
For me, if I haven’t studied throughout the semester, I usually go over my Learning Objectives from each unit and brainstorm what I know and understand already. I’ll then have a light read of certain topics to refresh my memory, and then I do a massive (and I mean MASSIVE) number of practice exam questions. I then sleep so I can consolidate my revised-knowledge, instead of waking up super tired for the exam!
If you can’t change it, then don’t worry.
This point extends from the last – if you haven’t studied throughout the semester (As much as you’d have liked to), then don’t worry! There is simply no reason for you to stress about the past- it has happened. It’s done! If you haven’t utilized your time to study, just calm down for the exams – the extra stress won’t help you in this circumstance. Do what you can to achieve a good score (i.e. revising, group discussions about topics, reading through summary materials, etc.), but don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s not the end of the world!
May a break be your best friend. Ever.
For effective exam studying, I can’t really study for hours on end without solid breaks in between! I work best with taking frequent breaks that last for 40 minutes on average. I’ve heard and read about many study-strategies where people take short 10 minute breaks for example, but those simply don’t work for me! If I take a break that short, I’m likely to end up procrastinating more anyway. I do what works with me – and this might look like watching an episode of Suits (or re-watching Gossip Girl for the 6th time – literally) in between study blocks! Alternatively I might watch a few YouTube videos of my favourite motivational speakers! These sort of things let me engage with some hobby-time, but they also motivate me to get back into study-
mode (especially when Jessica Pearson and Harvey Spector’s success has got you in a daze). I find that watching or reading material that inspires and motivates me gives me a chance to relax and have a break, while also getting me into a massive hustle-mode which I find essential for exams.
Block people out at the exam destination
It can be extremely hard to do because once we see our friends at an exam we just want to chat, but I definitely found that being on my own before an exam is more helpful, especially when you haven’t been able to revise as much as you’d have wanted to. Once you realize that your friends are talking about things that you did not revise, your stress will naturally sky-rocket – this is not what you need 10 minutes before an exam. Just let your friends know that you want to just chill with your headphones on, and I’m sure they will understand!