Exams are just two weeks away

Never fear, Critic is here! Your guide to getting prepared

The time is near, the assignments are (mostly) over and now itís time to put all that information into your brain. You probably should have started studying for exams a while ago, but realistically this guide has just got you thinking, ďAh, I should go and pick up my course reader/ open that textbook/ check what papers Iím even taking.Ē

First thingís first, if you have any lectures or tutorials on offer this week, go! These lectures tend to give you a pretty basic run down of what might, or might not, be in the exam. They also often give you some tips on how the test will be examined. Most lecturers want you to do well in their paper, so make the most of having them there and ask all the questions you can think of.

For Revision

  • Organise your lectures and readings into a relevant order. Ditch anything that you know for sure will not be in the exam.
  • Create questions about the material.
  • Carefully read each section and give answers to the questions.
  • Reflect on the material Ė adding examples and relating prior knowledge to your answers enables you to contextualise the material.
  • Recite and recall the information Ė keep asking questions, and then recall the answers to them, to yourself. Doing this with someone else works, too.
  • Review and review again. Run through your lectures and check no material has been missed. The more you know as you re-read, the more you will keep picking up.

Mindmaps Ė These are a fabulous way to cover each topic. Start with a headline in the middle, then no more than eight points from the start and eight points from those eight points. If you know exactly how many points are off each central point, this makes memorising the mindmap in the exam much easier.

Flashcards - Depending on how you like to learn, hundreds of cards with a question/ term on one side and the answer/ definition on the other, can be an easy way to learn a lot of content.

Use good olí pen and paper - Research suggests that laptops may impair learning because their use results in shallower processing. Students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. Although laptop owners may have taken more notes, their tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

Work with concentration - One hour of concentrated study is worth several hours of distracted study. If you can learn to work with concentration, you will achieve more in less time.

If you have to cram - Learn the shallow stuff. Highlight key information, vocabulary and the most essential topics. Make mindmaps of the most essential topics and redraw them until you canít visualise anything else. Trying to cover everything for that paper in a couple of days will only result in hyperventilation and a worn out brain.

Set up a plan - Print out a timetable and allocate a topic to each hour of study. Spend less time on what you know and much more time on what you donít! Itís easy to work the other way round.

Study buddies - Finding a group to study with, providing they are the dedicated sorts, will keep you on track, provide reviewing time and give you the opportunity to explain ideas to someone else. Research has shown that explaining concepts to someone else and reading ideas out loud help you recall the information better in future.

Exercise - Classes at Unipol are cheaper during the exam period for a reason. Look after your body as well as your brain, so that you can do your best and give your eyes a chance to rest. Though, Critic does not recommend exercising with your eyes closed Ė and donít read whilst running. Also, pack healthy lunches, get enough sleep and avoid late nights.

The Exam

  • Allocate your time evenly. Spend 30 seconds at the start of the exam working out how much time you have per mark.
  • Answer the questions given to you, not the ones you think should have been set.
  • Analyse the questions. This is not a word association test, so explain yourself.

Multichoice Exams:
  • Complete the easy questions first.
  • For the harder ones, eliminate the ones you know are wrong.
  • Take a step back and see which answer makes common sense.
  • Sometimes choices are grammatically incorrect and therefore incompatible. Rule out these possibilities.

Essay questions:
  • Plan your essay. This is where mindmaps are gold.
  • Start with a general introduction paragraph.
  • Define the essential terms and concepts.
  • Address the questions using theory and empirical evidence.
  • Conclude the essay by linking back to the introduction.
  • Get to the point with essay questions. Time is marks.

Reduce Test Anxiety - Mentally, physically and emotionally prepare yourself if you are one to get stressed for exams. If you prepare adequately in advance, you will be more confident for the exam. Ensuring you are familiar with the material and practicing past papers will help reduce your fear of the unknown.

Emotionally prepare - Set yourself realistic goals from now and remember that you will achieve a lot more in the future than just good grades. Schedule chill-out time during this period of intense study, whether thatís a movie date with the flatties or a baking some cupcakes. Work hard, look after yourself, and remember, exam results are not the be-all and end-all.
This article first appeared in Issue 26, 2014.
Posted 1:49pm Sunday 5th October 2014 by Staff Reporter.