There’s more to exam preparation than burying your head in the books. Here are 12 other prep pointers that will help you show up to your exams in tip-top form.
Exam stress management tips
1. Ditch the distractions
Want a successful study session? Put your phone on silent mode and place it out of reach. Check it every 45 minutes or so when you take a break. Notifications, calls, texts, emails and the urge to check social media will render your exam prep useless. Treat your phone like your enemy and your study space like your sanctum to improve your concentration.
2. Test yourself
Practice questions, past exam papers, tests, quizzes – the most effective way of learning is by doing. Rather than spending hours passively reading rules and textbooks only for your brain to tune out, put your knowledge to the test. Regularly quizzing yourself will reinforce your memories, helping you to recall information in the exam room.
3. Reward yourself
We all know what happens to Jack when life’s all work and no play. Avoid the dullness of exam prep by blocking out time for the things and people you love. A healthy balance between study and play spells good news for your motivation and productivity levels.
Time management tips for students
4. Start early
Cramming a year’s worth of learnings into a night or two is no way to achieve your best ATAR score or nail your HSC/VCE/QCE/SACE exams (we have that list memorised). Instead, start preparing well before the big day. Whether it’s a daily dose of reading, note-taking or self-quizzing, preparing in advance will stop you from feeling overwhelmed and keep those night-before meltdowns at bay.
5. Learn to prioritise
It’s easy to study a topic you know like the back of your hand. For quality revision time, begin with subjects you’re not as familiar with or you find difficult to wrap your head around. Focusing on the tricky topics first and allocating them more time will give your brain a chance to let the information sink in. Come exam time, you’ll be able to address these areas with ease.
6. Be organised
Between school, social and work commitments, fitting in study can easily fall by the wayside. To avoid feeling underprepared, create a study timetable and stick to it. Use time-management apps, calendars, diaries, to-do lists or virtual whiteboards to help you add structure to your days, remember exams dates and stay on schedule. Include downtime and playtime, too, so that you don’t deprive yourself of quality me-time.
Year 12 study tips
7. Find your study style
Need silence to study? Or like to learn with friends? Identifying your learning style early on gives you the best chance of remembering content. If you’re a visual learner, you most likely write out and colour-code your notes, using graphs or illustrations to support them. Audio learners retain information best when listening to an audio book or podcast, while those with a physical learning style engage in activities to help them remember information. Verbal, logical, social, solitary – work out your style to make the most of your study sessions.
8. Master memory techniques
The secret to retaining and recalling information is finding memory techniques that work for you. Using associations, sketches or acronyms next to facts, figures and chapters you find difficult to remember will help spark your memory. The other trick? Space out your study sessions using a technique called Spaced Repetition. Doing this allows your brain to absorb knowledge deep within your long-term memory.
9. Take notes
With a pen and paper. The physical act of writing requires the brain to be active during the note-taking process as it focuses on producing the shapes of each letter. The same can’t be said of typing – which makes a massive difference when it comes to retaining information. Then, when you reread your handwritten notes, it triggers memories of the information having been processed before. When we read over typed notes, though, our brain processes the information as if it’s seeing it for the first time. Therefore, writing your notes will not only improve your retention of the material – it will boost your ability to learn with less need for review.
10. Stay active
Our brains need oxygen to function properly, and the best way to get that oxygen-rich blood pumping to it is with exercise. Run, walk, swim, surf, dance – find your release and your brain will thank you. Carve out plenty of time for outdoor activities, socialising and exercising to get those endorphins flowing, too. When the body releases these feel-good chemicals, it also releases stress.
11. Eat well
If you want to show up to exams firing on all cylinders, fuel your brain with healthy food. Fruits, veggies, protein, complex carbs – you know the drill. Nourish your insides to supercharge your energy levels and maintain focus. And don’t skip meals – that will only lead to irritability and reduced attention span.
12. Get sleep
Complement your healthy lifestyle with quality sleep. Get the recommended eight to 10 hours of shut-eye each night to reset your brain. Plus, taking a power nap for 45–60 minutes after learning something new is said to boost your memory by up to 500 per cent. So, hit the hay and you’ll improve your learning and performance, as well as your ability to retain, recall and memorise information.