Tips on Studying for Exams
Studying efficiently requires you to organise your time and resources. The following are general guidelines to help you prepare for exams.
Begin studying early! That’s the main takeaway from this document.
- You can start thinking about the exam from the beginning of the year by keeping your ears open for hints and tips.
- Revise your notes after each class so you have a clear and complete set to study from.
- Start doing more revising about four weeks before your exams.
- Don’t cram the night before—it’s ineffective, because you’re taking in so much information at once that it’s impossible to memorise it all. You’ll hardly retain anything and will be tired and stressed when the time comes to actually sit the exam.
- Avoid procrastination such as excessive partying, alcohol and Facebook! Whilst it may seem like fun (and it is at times!), be careful of these distractive traps.
Organise your time
- Fill out a weekly study planner – you can find a LearnMate one here.
- Make use of short study times. Fifteen minutes can be ideal for revising notes or looking through note cards. Use time spent on the bus or train to review your subject materials.
- Don’t study for longer than 60 minutes without a break. It’s better to study for short intense periods with sustained concentration than long blocks of time when you are tired and not working effectively.
- Work out when you can study most effectively. Are you more alert in the morning or evening? When in your day can you find quiet time and space? Schedule study times that suit your personal rhythms.
- Don’t study when you’re really tired. It’s better to get a solid night’s sleep after a short study period, then to push on until 2am. You won’t remember much and will be less effective the next day.
Organise your subject material
- Gather the materials for each subject. Make sure you have a complete set of course notes and copies of any handouts, slides or visuals. Make sure they correspond to the topics in the subject’s study design.
- Make sure you review the study design’s key objectives so you know exactly what could be assessed in your exams! The exam assessor can only assess you based on what is in this holy document!
Rewrite your notes
- Rewriting your notes helps you to remember them. Don’t just copy out your original notes—you’ll end up simply memorising the exact wording instead of the actual concepts. The key is to read and think about the contents of your notes, what you noted down and why (in what way it is important), how to express it most efficiently and memorably, and then re-write them in your own words.
- When you finish studying a section of notes, ask yourself questions relating to the material to see if you remembered what you just read. It can help to answer your questions out loud as if you were trying to explain them to someone else.
Sort out what you don't understand
- Clarify the meaning of any words or concepts you don’t understand before trying to study them. If you aren’t clear about what information means, memorising it won’t help.
- Prioritise the hardest subjects first in each study session. Allocate more time to studying the subjects you find most difficult.
- Talk to your teachers about terms and concepts you don’t understand immediately. Also bring this up with your LearnMate tutor to ensure you can understand it.
Study hard BUT set limits
- Set study periods. Don’t study for longer than 60 minutes without taking a break. It is better to study for a short intense period of time with sustained concentration than long periods of time when you are tired and not engaging well with the material
- ‘Chunk' information. Don't try to study the entire course in one sitting. Divide the subject up into topics and aim to study a ‘chunk' at each study session.
Set study goals
Set yourself a goal for each study session to help you keep track of what you are revising. Write them down as soon as you begin your study session, or set them at the end of the study session for next time. For example, you could write this down as wanting to achieve these goals in a given study sitting:
- I will read through and summarise chapters 3 and 4.
- I will work through five equations.
Study to suit your learning style
- If you’re a visual learner, diagrams and pictures can help you remember.
- Auditory learners should listen to lecture recordings or make their own recordings of notes that they can listen to later.
- If you are a kinesthetic person explain key ideas aloud to yourself while moving around. Explore different ways to help you remember key facts and to increase your understanding of the main concepts.
Form a study group
- Form a study group with other students. Swap practice exams and give feedback. Drill each other on study topics. Like at uni, study groups are very effective if your friends are mature enough to want to study and not be distracted.
Review past exam papers
- Review any previous exam papers for your subject on the VCAA site.
- Look at the wording of the questions and familiarise yourself with the keywords.
- Practice doing the papers under exam conditions and carefully review your answers. There’s no use just typing all exams when you’ll be handwriting it.
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