If it wasn't for those pesky exams...
"Ceci n'est pas Scooby-Doo." by JD Hancock
Ok, so perhaps the days of watching Scooby-Doo on the box, with a pot of tea and some party rings at the ready are gone. The fact is, knuckling down for some revision sessions is no one's idea of fun-filled days. Faffing about and losing your studying marbles is not the way to go. Running for the hills come exam stress may be your first reaction, but that won't bag you your top marks. Here are a few handy tips and tricks to help you nail those exams in the upcoming months...1) Become a planner. There's nothing worse than that sinking feeling you get when you're underprepared and someone's talking about something you didn't work on. Make sure you don't get bogged down by how much you've got to do and put it on the mental 'I'll do it later' pile. The pile - believe it or not - won't miraculously disappear, so your best bet is to attack the subjects head on. Exams are not there to trick you, they're put into practice because they're an opportunity to show what you know - you can and will learn it, just give yourself time to prepare and execute your plan of (revision) action.
2) Location, location, location. What may seem a little off-key during revision stress is picking your place of study. 'My room! The library! The common room!', I hear you cry. Well, is it really the best place for you? How much work did you get done over the past year there? Rooms can be distracting - make sure you give it a good revision tidy. That means goodbye leftover plates, strewn DVDs, flyers for nights out etc. Next, pick a picture of something inspirational (it can be anything from kitsch to serious), make up your revision timetable and pick a final picture of where you want to be this summer. These three items will keep you focused - you want to be inspired, you've got a clear time frame and you've got somewhere you want to be at the end of it all. Libraries, especially of the Social Sciences kind, can be extremely busy come revision time - a little known secret are town libraries, which are pretty much empty during the day. Scout out a couple close to you, and step foot in the world of the non-student. It may not be as exciting as catching up with your friends, but it sure will make you a lot more focused, as you won't have any distractions. You could even alternate days in the library, with days at home, with days in the common room. Some people find cafés appealing, just make sure you pick one that's relatively quiet and chilled.
3) Timetable me up. A timetable is key - you need to know what you're doing and when. Make sure you create a realistic one - don't overfill it with work, work, work as it won't make you any more productive, and you'll probably not stick to it anyway. Instead, swap subjects/modules round, every couple of hours. You can go back to it later and see how much you've soaked up. Don't spend ages covering an area you already know well - spend time on those grey patches that are a little more tricky. Colour code your schedule, put stars on it, write it up or type it up, whatever works for you, but remember to allocate yourself 5 to 15 minute breaks to step outside, stretch your legs or make yourself a cup of tea. You need to relax those brain clogs now and then...Key words here are 'every now and then', mind!
4) Become a stationery fiend. It may sound a little geeky, but heck, you're revising for exams so I guess it's about geeking it up in the best way possible - make sure you get the right tools for the job. I had a friend who would only write with a Staedler 1.5 black ballpoint pen, and after a little mockery on my part, I soon realised everyone's got their thing. Maybe it's lined paper, checked, WHSmith's wide-ruled, blue, red, pink or green biros or felt tip pens...It doesn't matter, as long as it works for you. Have a play and a doodle in your nearest stationers and invest in your favourite bits and pieces for the job. Just make sure you don't spend more than 20 minutes in the shop. You don't need to have a look at their Filofaxes if you don't need one right now...
5) Create a reward scheme. Revision can be mightily stressful at the best of times and it can all feel like one big uphill struggle. It doesn't have to be. Reward yourself with a film, an outing, a walk in the park, a special dinner, once you've completed a set task. You'll have something to work towards and it'll make it seem worth the time you packed in studying.
6) Go for a run. I'm not the sportiest of sporty fans out there, but I found that going for a 20 minute run around my block released some (not all - as I say, I'm not an athlete) of my pent-up stress due to exams. It clears your head, you get a kick out of it and you can even team up with a mate to do it. Most people also forget that sat at your desk, day-in day-out, means you don't get the chance to exercise as much as you used to. Not walking into uni each day meant I developed some extra podginess. Running therefore = stress release and keeping a little more fit. Gave it up after exams though...
7) Speak out. A problem shared is a problem solved - you need to speak to people to get to the bottom of your worries. There's no point going round in circles if you feel something's not going in. Friends, family, university lecturers and online bloggers could help you see something differently, shine line upon a subject and get you thinking outside the box. Repeating facts incessantly to yourself is draining - why not suggest to some friends off the course to meet up and discuss some of the stuff you've covered? Or better still, explain the task at hand to someone who has no connection to what you're studying - if they understand what you're saying, chances are you've swotted up properly.
8) Past papers. They are there for a reason. Use them! The questions may not appear two years in a row, so look for older versions. You may also find that none of the previous questions will come up, but you can work on them for time management purposes. Many students find putting pen to paper under exam conditions highly stressful - it all feels a little artificial. Sitting at home in the quiet, timer on hand, will give you some idea of what it's going to feel like on the actual day.
9) Believe yourself to be successful. If you go into an exam with the wrong frame of mind, chances are you'll sit and plot and wonder for the first five minutes. We've said it before, we'll say it again - all your exams are do-able, you just need a good dose of can-do attitude. This is your chance to show to yourself you can work to a task and set target to achieve a set goal. If you don't talk the talk, you won't be able to walk the walk (and we don't mean literally not reaching your chair, although stranger things have happened...). Be confident and believe yourself to be capable - you are, you got to this stage in the first place!
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