Hello all 🙂
So, the time for final exams is upon us yet again. Whether its uni, college, Highers or A-levels, it’s always going to be a stressful period and I fully empathise with you! (I should actually be revising right now instead of writing blog posts, but hey ho)
When it comes to studying, I’ve developed certain habits that I’ve found work for me, but wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone else. So whenever I see tips like “start preparing months in advance, study earlier in the day” and so on, I panic simply because I always find myself doing the opposite, and I worry that it’s the wrong way to go about it. But doing the opposite seems to work for me, and it’s taken me until university to actually realise that this is okay as long as I’m passing.
*Quick note before I go into this, obviously these aren’t pro-health tips. They aren’t going to work for everyone, and it may in fact end up being exactly what you don’t need. Some aspects may also be deemed unhealthy, and so this should be taken with a pinch of salt. It’s just an alternative take on the topic; though, if you do the same and it works for you too, let me know please!*
TIP 1: Establish exactly how you learn
When I first started high school, I had a class called “Learning 2 Learn”, which at the time I didn’t take seriously – because how can you learn to learn? It was just confusing and the whole concept tripped me up too much to take anything in. But anyway, it turned out that the whole idea was to figure out what kind of learners we were, and from there, find the most efficient ways for us to study. Looking back on that class now, it was actually incredibly helpful; it taught me that everyone has different ways of taking in information. For example, my best friend was super smart in school, and passed every exam she sat with flying colours, but she managed to study simply by picking up a textbook and reading it the night before. I, on the other hand, had to (and still do) sit with example questions and write a model answer over and over again until it’s been memorised like a script. Through this, I realised that I learn by “doing”; by carrying out tasks in order to memorise information. Not every method of studying works for all, and so by working out the most effective way for yourself, it will save a lot of time and lessens the risk of the information not going in. If you know you struggle to learn with a method that’s been suggested to you by someone, don’t try and force it to work!
TIP 2: Don’t worry about the typical advice being given
Throughout my high school exams, my mum would occasionally hit out with this advice – “proper preparation prevents poor performance”. From her point of view, she felt that I should have started studying ASAP to ensure I didn’t end up having to cram before exams, and that doing so would reduce the risk of failure. She still comes out with it every so often, but I’ve since come to learn that while this may be true for a number of people, it doesn’t actually apply to me (BTW – this is where you might feel that my tips don’t apply to you – don’t actually stop studying just because I’ve included this!). I’ve come to realise that I in fact retain more information and perform much better in exams when I really push myself to study, and the only way I can do this is by leaving myself a small amount of time. It sounds stupid (and running off of stress obviously isn’t the healthiest of options), but when I know I don’t have much time left, I force myself to sit and really focus on what I need to do – when I know I’ve got plenty of time, I’ll procrastinate and get nothing done. Same goes for the claim that you can learn better early in the day compared to later at night; I find that I can give my full attention to the task at hand when everyone’s asleep and there’s nothing going on, whereas during the day there’s too much going on to get anything done. Again, this doesn’t work for everyone! But if you find that traditional advice doesn’t work for you and your learning experience, don’t be afraid to go against it and try something different!
TIP 3: To do lists are fab!
I make lists for EVERYTHING. I can’t even prepare for travelling home without making a list of everything I need to clean or tidy away before I leave, and that’s before the page-long checklist of clothes. Of course – as with the previous tips – not everyone will find writing lists useful, but I’m yet to find someone who hasn’t at least understood the beneficial impact. Simply writing a list of things such as the tasks you need to do, the topics you need to cover or the layout of the course’s syllabus will allow you to physically view everything requiring completion in black and white – doing this makes me feel a lot more in control of my workload as I can see exactly what is to be done, and it keeps me way calmer than I would be otherwise. Plus ticking items off one-by-one is a huge stress reliever!
TIP 4: Sleep, at least before the exam
Boring one, I know. Everyone reminds you to get plenty sleep when you’re studying, and it is important of course. But I can’t honestly say I take this advice, and so it’s not something I can tell others to do. In the run up to exams, you are very likely to find me pulling an all-nighter in the university library, heading home at 7am for a couple hours’ sleep and then getting up in the afternoon to head back up. My flatmates are constantly telling me off for it, but I just find it works for me. Here’s the thing though, you will need sleep before the exam. I actually accidentally (seriously, it was accidental) stayed up all night before my last exam in January, convinced myself I’d learned enough to get an outstanding mark, and I left that exam hall feeling totally confident that I couldn’t have got anything less than an A. I was dead certain that staying awake right through to the exam was the secret to success.
Thing is, not even five minutes later I couldn’t recall what any of the questions had asked, let alone what I answered them with, and when the results came in I’d actually only got an upper C. Pull as many all-nighters as you want when you’re studying, just make sure you ultimately get a healthy amount of rest in time for the big day!
We can do this lads.