Home study has its perks. But to be effective, you do need a structured and disciplined approach. And since we touched on some revision strategies and time management in the first part of this blog series, for this final part we want to share some in-depth advice to help you get prepared.
Plan how to manage your emotions
It’s fair to say that stress, anxiety and worry are common emotions felt by most students. In a 2018 report, as many as two-thirds of US students said they were struggling with overwhelming anxiety. And this is before they took any exams.
So, when it comes to exam prep, you must make a plan for how to manage your emotions. Because it’s often how we feel on the day that will make the biggest difference to our outcomes.
The University of St Andrew’s suggests 4 areas to manage to help you reduce exam anxiety:
- Psychological: Work on increasing your sense of control, reduce irrational beliefs and avoid catastrophic thinking.
- Lifestyle: Eat nutritious foods, get regular exercise and create a functional sleep pattern.
- Information: Know the dates and times of your exams, and techniques to reduce anxiety.
- Studying styles: Start your revision early, and commit to an effective revision strategy.
Decide if you prefer day or night study
Creating a study schedule is essential to your exam preparation and planning. And this should include the times of day you’ll commit to studying, when you’ll take your breaks, and when to get that essential life admin dealt with.
So while there’s no definitive research to say which time of day is the best, you likely have a natural preference to work at the start or end of the day.
And there are benefits to both:
- A recent study indicated mid-morning could be the best time for learning.
- You won’t disrupt your sleep cycle or circadian rhythm.
- You’ll get lots of natural light which can help your brain stay alert.
- Sleeping soon after a period of study can improve memory recall and long-term retention.
- Some people find they’re more creative later in the day.
- You may have fewer distractions or disturbances.
Whichever your preference for studying at home, make sure you factor in the importance of daily exercise and nighttime sleep.
Use apps to manage your home study
Apps make it much easier to plan and manage your time leading up to exams. So here are some to consider:
My Study Life
A comprehensive planning and management app that supports every aspect of your exam prep. You can schedule work, create to-do lists and get reminders about upcoming exams. Plus, it’s available across all devices.
This is a free, simple to use app that’s perfect for keeping track of your exam dates. Featuring colour coding and icons to identify each subject, it’s a helpful way to prioritise your workload.
Todoist is a popular, cloud-based app used by businesses, professionals and students. With a usable interface, it’s a convenient tool that’s free to sign up to.
Study little and often
Cramming is a tempting revision strategy. But it’s also ineffective.
Studies show cramming leads to average examination grades and poor long-term retention. So, although cramming in the lead up to your exams could work in the short term, it’s unlikely your brain will remember most of it.
Instead, it’s worth managing your time using spaced repetition. Especially when studies show spaced repetition can boost long-term memory.
The Pomodoro Technique is a popular spaced repetition method used by students across the globe. And by studying in short bursts followed by shorter breaks, your brain gets a chance to absorb information before moving onto the next topic.
So how should you use the technique?
- Study for 30 minutes (known as a Pomodoro) then take a 5-minute break.
- Try to achieve 4 Pomodoro’s in a row (known as a set).
- Challenge yourself to achieve 3 to 4 sets of Pomodoro’s in a day
As a high-intensity practice, you may find you need a little support to stay on track. If so, there are apps such as Focus Booster that you may find helpful for home study.
Freshen your mind with learning aids
Flashcards are a brilliant way to practice spaced repetition.
By creating a set of your own, you’ll test your knowledge more effectively than re-reading lecture notes. Plus, once you have them you can use them, again and again, to make sure your knowledge is up to scratch.
Also, there are a couple of great apps to help you build flashcards on your phone. Take a look at Chegg Prep and Quizlet, which allow you to build your own deck of virtual flashcards.
Studying for exams is stressful enough without having to worry about deciphering your own lecture notes. But there is a way to overcome this and ensure you capture lectures with precision and accuracy.
Students who use captioning services such as Caption.Ed enjoy a better learning experience and downloadable transcripts. Plus, we have a newly-launched ‘Notes’ feature which means all transcripts can be formatted into a helpful set of revision notes.
With summaries and tag features included, they can make all the difference to your home study.
Plan for breaks and rest
Remember that home study requires some extra work to make sure you’re looking after yourself in the right way.
So, include time for daily exercise in your schedule. Even if it’s walking to the shops and back. Also, try to eat nutritious meals. And above all, keep a regular sleep routine. In one study, as many as 68% of students said exam stress affected their sleep. And no one needs sleep deprivation to harm their chances of success.
And, as we’ve seen with spaced repetition, it’s important you take regular rest and revision breaks between learning. Why? Because breaks are more likely to improve your retention and recall abilities.
Stay positive and look after yourself
Staying positive is the key to success during exams. You do need some pressure, but if it feels too much it can lead to excessive stress, catastrophic thinking and emotional burnout. And those are the last things you’ll want to have to deal with during the exam season.
Instead, ask for help. And if you’re uncomfortable speaking to friends or family, look out for any mental health and counselling support services at your university.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this three-part blog series on exam preparation.
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