You’re back at school, working hard and enjoying the new term with your friends- but no matter how hard you try, you can’t shake that worry in the back of your mind; midterms are approaching. Does procrastination sound familiar? What about late night cramming sessions and mini breakdowns? Or maybe you study immensely hard but get so stressed out that it affects your performance? There is no doubt about it; exam season is a stressful period for every student- but don’t worry, whatever your midterm horror story, CK is here to help. By following this guide, you will be able to remain calm (yes, really!), be fully prepared and ace those exams. We really believe that you can achieve the results you desire without a hellish build up. This is your future, so let’s turn that worry into productivity and make your dream grades a reality!
Get a head start
Starting your revision the week, or worse, the day before the exam is a sure fire way to stress yourself out. No matter how tedious revision may be- it is a hell of a lot easier if you’re not rushed. Give yourself a chance to learn your notes thoroughly and reach your potential. How early you should start depends on how much material you have to cover. If you want to be super prepared, you should ideally, aim to learn one or two lectures per day, and have at least 2 weeks at the end of your learning to recap and practice questions. This means thinking about your revision way in advance. Try counting how many lectures you have in each term at the start of the year so you can arrange a date to start on. Trust me, there is nothing worse than realising you simply don’t have the time to cover everything. Starting early means you can study in a more relaxed manner with more breaks and can even schedule complete days off to do something enjoyable!
Sort your schedule
So, you’ve figured out your time period- now’s the time to come up with a brief study plan. Organisation is integral to minimising stress and this way you won’t waste time each day deciding what to focus on. I would advise mixing the subjects up for variation, but some people prefer to cover a whole subject’s material and then move onto the next. So make sure you do what works best for you. Rather than drawing a huge grid schedule (which can seem very overwhelming), why not buy a cute planner and write in the subject and lecture you will cover each day! Don’t be tempted to flick ahead and see how much you have to do, instead focus on each day as it comes- it makes studying much more bearable.
A great tip for memorising information is to read it, understand it and then cover it up and write it down. You can then build upon this until you can recite the whole lecture. Yes, it’s time consuming but it’s a great way of consolidating information concisely. However, learning techniques vary from person to person, so it is crucial that you discover what sort of learner you are before you start your preparation. Have a read of the following learning styles and take on board the revision tips for each:
Visual learners: If you prefer to learn through images and text, try making colourful mind maps for each lecture and highlight the key areas and points. You could even illustrate with pictures, graphs or diagrams to jog your memory. You may also benefit from watching videos on the subject, which is particularly good if you need a break from reading!
Auditory learners: If you prefer to listen to information, why not invest in a recorder to take to your lectures? This way you can upload all your ‘notes’ onto your iPod and listen to them on the go. Research by Dr. William H. Johnson has found going to sleep listening to information can amazingly enhance our memory for these facts. So if you have to take that nap, make sure you pop your headphones in! It’s worth a try, right?
Kinaesthetic learners: If you find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time or like to be tactile in your learning, try group discussions with friends, make definition cards and order them together and write information down from memory.
Don’t tie yourself too closely to these learning styles, if you are getting restless and bored of your revision, switch to another technique for a bit. Most importantly- if you reach something you don’t understand, look it up! Skipping it may seem tempting but it will only catch you out later!
Here is the important part- it’s all very well having a plan and a technique but if you don’t put in the hours then it is simply wasted effort. Discipline doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom! Write in your schedule one treat that you can have at the end of the week if you get all your studying done. So long as you’ve started early, it’s not at all unreasonable for you to take some time out. For all you workaholics that push yourselves too hard, try this- do your revision from 9am till 6pm and then stop. Have the evening to relax, watch TV, go to the gym or curl up with a good movie! Don’t feel guilty either, we need time off to keep ourselves fresh, burning yourself out is simply not productive.
Practice makes perfect
It’s a few weeks before the exam and hopefully you should have covered all your material. Now is the time to put it into practice and really perfect your technique. Practice tests under timed conditions, study the mark schemes, compare your answers and opinions with friends and get your teacher’s feedback. Sometimes this period can be frustrating, as even if you know all the information, certain questions can still trip you up. The important thing is to not be disheartened by this. Remember, it’s better to make mistakes now than in the actual exam, so stay calm and figure out where you went wrong so you don’t do it again.
Stress busting tips
Even with all your amazing preparation, it is still natural to feel nervous before the exams. During your revision, if you feel yourself getting frustrated or thinking negatively about the exam, stop, take a break and some deep breaths and come back to it in half an hour. Your mind won’t retain information as well if you are distracted by worrying thoughts. Another good idea is to switch rooms every now and again for a change of scenery- if it’s sunny why not read your notes in the garden for a bit and work on your tan too?
Look after yourself
It is equally important to look after yourself as it is to study hard during this time. Make sure you are getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night and eat a balanced diet and drink lots of water. Do some gentle exercise- like walking or yoga to help you relax and sleep better. Check out this article, for more tips on how to look after yourself and your appearance during the exams.
The night before
The big day is almost here! You have worked so hard and you need to stop worrying and reassure yourself that you know the material. Get your last bit of studying done in the day and then relax for the evening, so your mind can consolidate all the information it has taken in. It’s the worst idea to stay up all night revising and your mind will find it difficult to switch off. So get all your exam equipment ready, lay your outfit out, make your lunch- do everything you can to minimise stress in the morning. Then have a bath and unwind before bed. Pop a few drops of lavender on your pillow if you’re having trouble switching off. Getting a good night’s sleep is the best thing you can do.
The morning of the exam
It’s almost crunch time! You may be feeling sick with nerves, but make sure you have a healthy breakfast. Some oatmeal and blueberries is a winning combination. Blueberries have been shown to help brain performance by reducing the amount of oxidative stress, while the steady energy released by the oatmeal will aid your concentration. If you are still nervous, try writing down all your exam worries onto a piece of paper before you leave. Research by Professor Ramirez from the University of Chicago found that when students undertook this exercise their exam performance significantly improved! Aim to get to your exam 20 minutes early so you are not flustered when you get there. It is also a good idea to take some headphones and listen to some relaxing music rather than picking up on your classmate’s nerves, whose difference in knowledge may stress you out.
Believe in yourself
Be proud of all your hard work and know that you have tried your absolute best! No matter how the exam goes, your flawless work ethic is an achievement in itself and that’s a skill which will be much more valuable in life than a single grade on a midterm test. Think positive and know that you can succeed in anything if you put your mind to it. Hold your head up high, enter that exam room and show those examiners what you’re made of!