Let’s be honest, exams are not often the most fun experience for learners – however they are a necessary reality. You may have some previous experience of them through school or college, or maybe your first exam ever is coming up and you have absolutely no idea where to start. This blog is all about how to prepare for them – exams can be quite demanding both mentally and physically so some heads up and general tips may prove to be useful…
The first element worth mentioning is your revision style – ask yourself, what kind of learner are you? There is no correct answer to this question, and if you are unsure then that is also fine, this is a golden opportunity to invest some time into ‘figuring yourself out’. Do you have ways of learning that have worked for you in the past? This could be sat reading a book in the corner, or going on a video binge, maybe looking through previous lesson slides? Or even listening to podcasts about a certain topic. Again, there is no wrong way of learning – it might even be a combination of all these things. Where the classroom may not have caught up with modern ways of learning and technological advances – the power of the internet brings with it a near infinite amount of ways to make learning fun and unique to you. So, the first tip is to get creative and revise in multiple different ways – videos, reading, listening, discussion, quiet thinking/contemplation. Incorporate as many of these different learning styles into your revision as possible, this will help keep it fresh and fun while also helping the information stick!
Okay – so we have gone through some clever ways to make your revision more engaging, now what about ways to actually (and realistically) implement them? Get some red sauce in your life and maybe consider the Pomodoro technique. This handy tool is a very simple way to help maintain focus and maximise your use of time. Very simply, set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on a task during that time. After this you get a 5-minute break as a reward, this process can be repeated as many times as needed. This will relate back nicely to that ‘figuring yourself out’ thing we spoke about – only have the energy to do one 25-minute session? That’s fine. Want to do another 25 mins? Great. Try not to view it as right or wrong, you are still dedicating the time and it is always surprising what can be accomplished, even if it’s just 25 minutes.
One last tip in terms of exam preparation – half the battle is always getting the information (and understanding) into your head, this is obviously done through your fantastic revision. The other half of the battle, and the part quite often neglected, is practising the retrieval of that information! Exams are very dependant on the questions being asked, so being able to draw out information from deep within your memory bank is an entirely different skill – and as with all things, you will get better at this the more it is practised. So make some time to test yourself – flash cards, conversations with friends (challenge/test each other), reading a chapter then putting the book down and summarising what you have read are all ways you can incorporate retrieval practise into your exam preparation. Be smart beforehand and the version of you sitting in the exam room will be grateful.
Okay, so we have covered useful ways to get creative with learning, how to utilise your time more and help with focus (Pomodoro) and how incorporating retrieval practise is equally important in preparing for your exams – the last point is much more personal. You are the one sitting the exam, your mind and body will be in the room and answering the questions – so taking care of these things are probably the most important aspect of preparation. Let’s be honest, stress can be unpleasant – it can make sleep and appetite vanish and make rocking in the corner much more appealing than sitting and learning about the biological approach in Psychology. Mind and body are very closely linked, and one will always directly affect the other. Putting some thought and action into taking care of these things will make an enormous impact on how prepared you feel. Consider taking a rest around the time of the actual exam – go for a walk, see some nature – try to find some peace and get a good night’s sleep. Where caffeine and fast food is appealing and often delicious – on their own they will provide very little benefit! Try to eat some good stuff too, fruits/vegs and stay hydrated – these things can have a massive influence on your brain power (not to mention mood and wellbeing). Be smart, be kind to yourself and absolutely smash those exams.