How to survive: Exams

Exam period at university is one of the most stressful times for a student. In my first year of university I failed my first exam and I did not know where I went wrong. However, I am now in my last year of university and have gained the skills and knowledge on how to get through this ‘horrible’ period. I have 10 top tips that may work for you, in order to help you pass your exams with flying colours.

1.  Know your timetable

The first step to passing your exam is to familiarise yourself with your exam time table. Once it is released, look at it and make note of the time and date it will be on, where it is being held and where you will be sitting (seat number). Some students have more than one exam, so make note on how many days or weeks between each of them, as this will tell you what you need to revise first and how long you have between each one.

2. Know your topics you need to revise

Once you know when your exams are, make note of what topics and how many you need to know for your exam. This will not only make things easier when it comes to revision, but it can allow you to work out how long revision will take for each of them.

3. Creating a study plan

Once you know what topics you need to revise for each exam, you can then start a study plan. A detailed study plan is the best route as it will be better for you in the long run and will prevent unnecessary stress. There will be times where you do not stick to the study plan, but I still advise you to make one as it will help you structure your days coming up to the exam. It will also help you realise how much or how little you have to prepare for each exam.

When I failed my first exam at university, I made sure that I would never have to go through that stressful time again. For my study plan I started by looking at the exam timetable I made and then I assigned each lecture and topics to certain days of the week before my exam. For example, I study law and for my exams within law it required me to know at least five topics I learnt over the year. I would write down the five topics I felt strongest in and then I would assign myself at least 3-4 four days on each topic, going through the different cases, relevant law and any other things that were necessary for me to know in each topic. However, I understand that some students may not have the privilege of having 3-4 days on each topic because their timetable may be close together. This shows how important your study plan will be as you can work out how long you have on each topic. Another tip for this section is to note down what is your most productive time of day. All students differ, I prefer day time as that is the time I am least tired, but some students prefer to work in the evening. By knowing this, you can assign the biggest parts of your revision to that time of day, which will make you get the most out of your revision.

4. Choose your study space

The next step for you exam preparation is choosing your study space. All students differ when it comes to the location of revising. Personally, I prefer revising at home as sometimes I find my university library distracting as you may see friends and not get a lot of work done. If you are like me and prefer working at home, then the best tips I can give you is to clear any distracting things such as your mobile phone and make sure you have drinks and snacks around you to help you through your revision.

If you prefer the library, then make sure you go to the library at an early time to guarantee you can find a good study place that will fit all of your equipment such as your laptop, books, notepads and paper. Some universities allow you to book out rooms within the library to allow you to work in a quiet environment. I fully advise this as other people’s conversations can be very distracting when it comes to revision.

5. Turn of your mobile phone or any other smart devices

Your mobile phone will be one of the most distracting things when it comes to revision. I am guilty of going on Instagram or Twitter just to have a peak when I should be revising, so the best advice to give is to turn it off or put it out of arms reach. You can give yourselves breaks to go on your phone, but when its revision time the best thing you can do is switch it off.

6. Summarise each topic in your own words

This step is the most important as it is the actual revision process. Personally I found it useful to get a large A3 piece of paper and summarise each topic on there. I would make note of all the important information I needed to include in my answer for the exam so that I did not have to keep going through all my different books as it was all there in one place.

However, some students may differ, I remember some of my friends in my law class would just have little words on a card and just keep reading through them so it stuck in there head. This process is completely up to you and seeing what is best for you. Whichever way you choose, make sure you include everything you need.

7. Go over everything you know every day

This step may seem pointless because you already know it, but going over it will make sure it will stay in your memory for the exam. Going over what you already know the night before the exam is a risky task as you might find you do not actually know a particular part and will cause a lot of stress and a sleepless night, which is not what you need the night before the exam.

8. Go through past exam papers

Once you have completed your revision for a particular topic, the best thing to do is go through the past exam paper to put your knowledge to the test. This will help a lot as you can familiar yourself on how the exam questions are structured and you can time yourself to prepare yourself in terms of timing. Once you have done this, you can tick off that topic and work your way through the next one.

9. Help from lecturers

Relating to the previous step, once you have completed your past exam question, you can ask your tutor to go through it and see if there needs to be any improvements. Do not be scared to ask for help, as at the end of the day, they are there to help you.

10. Do your exam and relax!

My last step is the easiest one. If you stick to your plan and make sure you revise everything that is vital to your exam, then you should feel confident and less stressed for you exam. Sticking to your plan, will reduce any surprises and gaps in your knowledge and you will be able to walk out of the exam pleased and happy with the hard work you put in.


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