You know how everything has a season, like clothes, accessories, shoes? Yeah? Well, so do exams. And unfortunately, exam season is right around the corner. It’s not so much exam season that’s the worst, it’s more so the build up to it that’s the real pain in the b*tt. Am I retaining any of the information I’m reading? Did I start revision too late? Will I have time to cover the whole syllabus? Am I putting in enough hours? What if I forget all this information that I’ve spent the past 5 hours cramming when I move onto the next chapter? All this sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Fear not because we’re here to save the day (and grade) with tips that go beyond flash cards, brainstorming and highlighting.
WORK OUT WHAT LEARNER YOU ARE
You might think that’s something that’s a given but it’s often overlooked. Revision can be a highly personal process and it’s worth testing out a few different methods before finding an approach that suits you. This will ensure that you are working smarter, not harder. Some like colour-coded spider diagrams, others will be able to learn simply by reading and regurgitating the information onto paper. Some people like to learn through listening to others speak, which is the auditory method of learning. Pro tip: record yourself reciting key dates, quotes or equations and listen to them as you walk to and from the library/supermarket, while at the gym or when you’re cooking dinner. You won’t feel like you’re revising but you will be amazed at how much you retain.
TRY TO GET A HEAD START
Starting early allows you to be be prepared and gives you time to learn and understand the material, which are both core practices of O levels, A Levels and beyond. It also equips you with coping up with any factors that may unexpectedly disturb your revision. Also, “cramming” is just not effective for everyone and will often only create more stress.
Whether you’re starting two months before the exam or two weeks, spend a couple of hours figuring out the content you are expected to have drilled in your brain for each exam and map out a revision timetable that takes into account when each of your exams is. This way, you’ll have divided the content into manageable chunks, making it less overwhelming and more doable. Not only will this ensure that you’re covering everything, it’ll stop you from freaking out, cramming and binging on junk food the night before your exam (which will lead to drowsiness and stomach aches, making you forget the majority of what you’ve learnt).
Tip: Make sure you schedule in regular study breaks (look into the Pomodoro technique of studying for 25 minutes and taking 5 off). Without regular breaks you could be headed for stress and burnout, which definitely won’t contribute to exam success.
Make a to-do list for your daily activities, breaking down your timetable further. When you sit down to make a to-do list, start off with something you’ve achieved in the day already before making your list, even if the task is as simple as: have breakfast or do half an hour of light yoga. This way, you’ll feel accomplished before you get started. Nothing beats the satisfying feeling of scribbling off a task on your list of doom and it’ll keep you motivated to keep powering through it.
YOUR OWN LEARNING SPACE
This one is is highly personalised. Maybe working in a library is more productive for you than working from the dining table at home. Orthodox parents might say that locking yourself in your room is the only way to revise. This will vary based on how you learn best and, again, it is worth experimenting to find what works for you.
Varying your environment can also work wonders. Instead of slouching over your desk all day, pick up your book and take a stroll in the garden whilst reading it. No garden? No problem. Tilt your book against a treadmill and get your workout in while doing the laborious act of revision. There’s a reason why PE is integrated into students’ curriculum. If you’re feeling stressed at the thought of your upcoming exams, staying fit and exercising will help you balance the tension in your mind
This may sound like the most boring, orthodox tip but it works wonders. No matter how you dress it up, revision isn’t the most enjoyable of activities and there are a million other things you would rather be doing but you’ve got to get to the grind. Be strict with yourself. Eliminate your distractions. No peeping at phones to see who has messaged, no scrolling Instagram for Karachista updates (shameless plug). This is where innovative apps like Forest are your best pals. Forest plants a seed when you lock your phone and a tree continues to grow until you quit the app. To make sure your tree keeps growing, don’t go on to any other apps on your phone. You don’t want to kill a poor tree, do you?
PRACTISE, PRACTISE AND MORE PRACTISE
It’s important to ensure that all of your revision doesn’t go to waste and that you are able to apply the knowledge in an exam situation. Past papers are a student’s best friend. If you can’t find access to them online, ask your seniors. The more you do them, the more you can work out what the exam board is looking for and can adapt your revision accordingly. Remember you are likely to fail the first couple, so don’t be disheartened. As with anything, practice makes perfect, so keep at it.
Jot down key facts on Post-it notes and stick them everywhere. Literally, everywhere. This way, you’ll be able to look over them all the time and the facts are more likely to stick in your brain (pun intended).
Find a friend. This does not have to be human, it can be the teddy you won from the fair. Try to teach that friend what you’re trying to retain yourself. The act of having to explain things to help someone else understand something will help to highlight what you yourself have learnt.
LEARN IN LAYERS
Learn the concept behind something, and not just the facts. Get a general understanding of the topic first without trying to get all the details first time round. Plan to cover all the material three times, with each time adding slightly more detail, and you’ll pick it up in no time.
If you’ve got exams coming up GOOD LUCK – we’re rooting for you all!