It’s unfair for me to be writing this article. For some insane reason, I am naturally good at taking exams. I’ve always done well when it comes to just writing stuff down, at the cost of not being very good at project-type assessments. But to make things fair, I’m going to give out some generic studying tips that I use to make sure I remember things.
Write Shit Down
You’re probably going to be writing things down in your exam, right? So you need to practice writing things down. Write all the things down. Actually, don’t. What you REALLY want to do is write down key phrases and words. Then you want to write down what these key phrases and words mean. Then you want to do that again, in your own words. Then check to make sure you’ve got the same meaning in those words of yours. The “in your own words” bit helps a lot as you’re basically explaining something how you understand it, and examiners tend to like it when you describe things in your own terms rather than copying word for word via a text book.
And don’t just type things out. Writing is better because it’s generally slower and you absorb it quicker. Ideally do a bit of both, but if you have to pick one over the other, I’d go for writing.
This doesn’t really work with things like mathematical equations though. So maybe just write those down normally.
It’s good to summarize things. Helps you remember a thing in a slightly smaller chunk. Shortening things into acronyms and things like that also helps, but a brief summary is much closer to what you’re going to write anyway. Be quick and to the point.
Do a Mental Test
If you’re lucky enough to have sample exam papers from previous years, it’s worth sitting down and attempting them. But there’s also something I do, before I begin my revision proper. I look at the exam and see how many questions I can answer off the top of my head.
This sounds weird but it shows right off the bat where I need to focus, what I can remember and what I don’t remember. You can do this a couple of times while revising, but don’t do it too much – after all, the actual exam will have different questions!
The important thing with a mental test isn’t your ability to answer quickly, but to find where you struggle and what you DON’T know, so you can improve in those areas.
Learn and Write as if You’re Doing a Test RIGHT NOW
Yeah, pretend you’re in a test. Time yourself and see how long it takes to answer a question. If it takes too long, refine it. If you write an answer really quickly, it’s worth looking back and seeing if you covered everything.
You need to get into the swing of writing. This can be especially hard if you spend all day typing. Might even be worth just spending some time writing things in general.
Sample papers are extremely useful for this. Try and find them and similar ones. Any teacher worth their salt should provide a sample paper anyway.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Common thing here. But seriously, an hour of study will break your brain. Even if you’re really pressed for time, take five minutes to get up from your chair and walk around, then come back. Do anything but study for five minutes. Then come back. Time yourself if you have to, but after a certain amount of time, you’ll start to forget what you did at the start.
Don’t Do Stuff Last Minute
This one’s pretty important for me. It’s a really bad idea to be reading things right at the last minute. Give yourself at least 10-20 minutes before you go into the examination room where you’re not reading or studying or writing anything. I say this because sometimes one goes into a bit of a panic, sitting there thinking “OMG I DON’T REMEMBER THESE SPECIFIC THINGS!” and that carries over into the exam itself, then you end up forgetting more things!
That also applies to the exam as well. Don’t leave things until the last minute. Don’t spend ages on one question you don’t know, leave it and come back later, but don’t leave it until the last minute. Also don’t leave re-reading your stuff until the very end.
Aim to Score Well
Doesn’t matter if you don’t get 100%. I know, it’s horrible. As someone who used to be a bitchy overachiever, it hurts. But I don’t want other people to break themselves worrying about these things the way I’ve broken myself. A pass is a pass. But at the same time, you don’t want to scrape by. So don’t focus on either acing a test or just passing, aim for somewhere in the middle.
Don’t be too harsh on yourself.
Yeah. Don’t be too harsh. No one’s perfect. Don’t worry about other people, look after yourself.
I hope this is helpful to some of you. Even if this article’s a bit late. Good luck!