It seems like right now, pretty much all of the student bloggers are talking about one thing… Exams. Despite the possible overlap of subject matter, I’ve put together a list of things that I did/wish I had done in preparation for my first year exams, hindsight is such a beautiful thing!
- REvise. It sounds obvious, it’s all we talk about in the weeks leading up to the exams, but the “re” is capitalized for a reason. During my revision for this semester’s exams, there were far too many occasions where I spent my ‘re’vision seeing the subject matter for the first time. It completely throws off progress and focus and means you’re not getting that all important second look at each topic. This leads quite nicely in to my second point.
- Keep good, comprehensive lecture notes throughout the year. I don’t know about anybody else, but my handwriting is appalling! The scribbles that I make in the fifty minute rush of a lecture are barely legible and definitely not organised. One thing I will be taking forward into second year is to write up neat and organised notes during my free time throughout the year to ensure that I’m aware of all subject material and have a resource for revision that is tailored to me. One of my best friends did so this year, and although I’m sure she wasn’t best pleased when we all begged to photocopy the notes that she had slaved over for hours, she came out of each exam with a smile on her face, whilst the rest of us were counting up potential marks to see if we had reached a pass.
- Prepare a snack before you start. Hunger is possibly my biggest form of procrastination, during the semester I easily get by on two meals a day and no snacks, yet during exam time I suddenly need seven meals and fourteen bags of M&M Crispies (Asda seems to know we’re weak when revising and puts them on offer!). If you prepare a (preferably healthy, but I’m not judging) snack before you start revising, you can set yourself a time goal and physically see the reward on the desk beside you. Everything tastes better when you’ve earned it.
- Don’t kick yourself for sleeping in later than you hoped/making plans to just hang out. Whilst revision is important, I see so many people locking themselves in their rooms to stare at one page of notes for several hours to try to force themselves to learn it, and they often end up learning just as much as somebody who spent a few hours reading over the notes and taking breaks to chill out in between. If you feel like you’re no longer being productive, take a break, chat to your friends or watch some rubbish telly and then come back to it. If you worry you won’t come back to revision, set an alarm on your phone for when your break is over. I’ve found myself pulling my hair out over seemingly unsolvable questions on numerous occasions, but when I came back to them with a fresh mind, they often seemed obvious. The University of Leicester Students’ Union has a unique approach to tackling exam stress. Check out Zara’s post for more details!
- Plan a treat for when exams are over. It doesn’t have to be a holiday or designer bag that will use up the last bit of your student loan and leave you living off beans for the rest of the semester, but having a reward in mind for the end of exams will give you something tangible to aim for. I found a dress that I loved in H&M before exam season, so I planned a night out with my best friends and after our last exam, we went to the city and I bought the dress to wear. Even better, the price was reduced!
- Don’t revise for a specific question. I said this in my last post, but it’s so important. In one of my maths exams this semester, I had four past papers and in each the same topics had come up, so I only focused on those topics and ignored everything else. I went into the exam and opened the paper and was thrilled to see the topics I had hoped for. Following this, I was revising for my English exam and in the two books I had chosen to study, religion is a major theme and a question on religion had been included in the exam for the past three years. So I learned quotes and wrote practice essay answers and went in to the exam feeling more ready than I had for any of my maths papers. I opened the paper and read all of the questions… not even one of which mentioned religion. I spent the two hours trying to find relevance and squeeze as many marks as I could out of a question for which I was not prepared. Nightmare!
Let me know if you think there’s anything I should have included in my list, I could do with some advice for next year!