Exam prep: 6 things to do NOW!

Exam writing

How often do you feel stuck when it comes to knowing what to do upfront to prepare for the upcoming exams? Sucks, right?

We get it. That’s why we want to let you in on six practical and well-researched actions you can take NOW that can positively impact your exam experience, help you to overcome exam-prep procrastination, ánd help you say goodbye to last-minute-exam-prep-hysteria.

Here’s the 6 things you need to do NOW:

1. Start Now

While there’s still time before the exams start, use it to review any work you’re not yet that familiar with. Time blocking is a great way to dedicate a specific time of the day to do just that – block out one, two or three 25-minute time blocks in your day for a quick review.

2. Use a Visual Calendar

Get a wall- or desk calendar/planner (a visual one, not an electronic one) and write down your exam dates, any other test/project dates, etc. for this term. Break down the work you need to study for the exams into smaller, manageable chunks, and use your calendar to plan (and write down) when you’ll be studying what. Keep it simple and do-able, don’t over-commit. Make sure you put up your calendar where you can see it every day.

3. Use Old Exam Papers

Look for previous exam papers on your exam subjects. Make sure you have at least two previous exam papers for every one of your subjects. When you’re done studying for a specific subject, complete the two exam papers – set a timer for the allocated time and pretend you’re busy writing an actual exam. Completing the exam papers will give you an idea of how questions might be formulated, and practice in completing the questions within the allocated time.

4. Make sure you try interleaving when studying

When studying, instead of focusing exclusively on one concept or subject at a time, alternate between them. There are loads of research that shows how beneficial this method is when studying.For example, if you are studying subject A and subject B, rather than practice only A on one day and only B on the next, you can practice both on each day by switching back and forth between them.

5. Don’t read and re-read your work

Don’t make the mistake of simply reading and re-reading through the work you’re supposed to know for your exam.  Reading and re-reading textbooks merely lead students to thinking they know the material better than they do since it is right in front of them. In other words, no matter how long before your exam you start reading through your work, and no matter how many times you read through it, you’re not actively busy learning (processing) the information.

Rather use active recall: closing the book and explaining in your own words everything you can remember up to that point to practice long-term memorization. Try to do the explaining out loud, as hearing your own voice (even if you’re whispering) makes you pay more attention to what you’re saying (and whether it’s correct or makes sense).

6. Stop multi-tasking while you’re studying

You’re probably already guessing where this one’s going… but hear us out.

Multitasking is a myth. You may think you’re killing two birds with one stone by texting or quickly checking your Facebook page while studying, for example, but you’re actually forming poor study habits.

It’s also not useful having your phone on silent but often checking if there’s any new messages, or looking at your phone every time it vibrates to indicate a new message or call. It breaks your concentration which means it takes time to get back into deep focus again.

According to researchers, so-called “multitasking” extends your study time and ultimately may damage your grades. So, when you’re studying, switch off your phone completely and put it somewhere out of sight.

Here’s to better, smarter ways to study!

Article written by Academic Coaches. Instead of reteaching academic content (tutoring), at Academic Coaches the focus is on building cognitive- and learning skills, strategies and tactics that enables you to become an independent learner (academic coaching). Academic Coaches offer learners a choice of premium structured programs, as well as individual academic coaching hours.

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Dalena Van Der Westhuizen

Dalena Van Der Westhuizen

Dalena van der Westhuizen is the co-founder of Brainability and Academic Coaches. She is a Cognitive Development Specialist, and an internationally certified Cognitive Coach. Dalena enjoys working with both kids and adults to improve the way the brain processes information so that your ability to learn, read, remember, think on your feet, follow instructions, and pay attention is developed and strengthened

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