Approaching final exams

With final exams now an impending force, it is well and truly crunch time!

3 years ago   •   4 min read

By Dylan Kay
Photo by Avel Chuklanov / Unsplash

With final exams now an impending force, it is well and truly crunch time!

I’m sure you are thinking about all that last minute content you need to squeeze into your brain (and how you are possibly going to do it for every subject!) Along with a few key tips for last minute revision, we have some more general advice about time management and the importance of taking time for yourself during a period that can, no doubt, be very stressful.

Last minute revision

You’ve spent a year ticking off all those syllabus dot points and it is now time to bring it all together… How are you going to do it?

Well first, having a super concise set of consolidated notes is paramount. Remembering 100 pages worth of notes is an impossible task but if you can consolidate it into 10 pages then you can focus your attention on the key ideas, particularly those that you are struggling with.

Syllabus mind maps are another effective way to organise your content, particularly if you’re a visual learner like me :) For my content-heavy subjects I would put the Module heading in the middle and then work my way out based on syllabus dot points.

If you can, complete at least one question for every subject, every day. Keep those clogs ticking (even if it's literally one multiple choice question).

Another effective technique, especially if you're pressed for time, can be reading past questions, without spending the time fully answering them. Simply thinking how you would approach the question forces you to consider application of content and allows you to recognise those areas or ideas that you might not be so familiar with… and if that’s the case, time to go back and focus your study on those concepts. In the lead up to your exam, you obviously want to be studying the broadest range of content but it is important that you don’t sacrifice depth in those areas that really need it. Identify weaknesses and focus your attention there - there is no point spending time on content that you already know (even if that may be a good ego boost!)

Create precise to do lists. Micro-tasks will help you stay on track - these tasks should take around 30 minutes so you can structure your study using the Pomodoro technique. As you begin to tick off these goals, you will feel a greater sense of accomplishment and be motivated to move onto the next goal. Rather than facing the almighty 3 hr past paper (which can seem like a huge trek), it might be more effective to work on 20 minutes of harder multiple questions - quality not quantity!

Another classic tip is to use flashcards for those quotes and questions that you still aren’t remembering. Speak your answer out loud as if you were explaining it to someone else. Keep doing that until you’ve got it!

If you are looking for more study help, we can pair you up with one of our amazing private tutors!

Managing your exam timetable

When managing your exam timetable it’s all about working smart! Prioritise the subjects and topics that need it.

Although we have the tendency to only study for the next exam, this can create a lot of stress when you finish that exam and then have three more over the next five days (trust me, I’ve been there and I would not recommend). Over the next few weeks, focus on the subjects and topics that you are weaker in. This may mean focusing on your last exam if you are more confident with those exams that are earlier. Just because English is your first exam, it doesn’t mean you should just be studying for English… what about your economics exam that is the day after?

What I’m trying to say is: BE ORGANISED! As soon as you’ve read this, sit down and plan out your study days for the full course of your exam timetable. Devise strict hours that you will dedicate to each subject on your ‘off’ days (when you aren’t sweating it in the exam hall).

I’ll say it again: dedicate more hours to the subjects that require more attention.

Take time for yourself

While last minute revision and time management is super important, this piece of advice takes the cake: take time for yourself. It is so essential that you strike a balance, otherwise you will burn out. These final exams do not mean that you have to put all other aspects of your life on hold.

In fact, exercise, socialising and good sleep is exactly what your brain needs to process all of that information that you have so tirelessly crammed in!

  • Exercising releases those ‘feel-good’ hormones called endorphins. They act as a pick me up when study is getting you down and are an amazing way to counteract stress.
  • Socialising releases oxytocin which once again reduces stress and anxiety by relaxing the brain and providing the psychological stability you need to perform your best.
  • Getting those 8 hours fo sleep is necessary to provide you with the energy you need to kick another day. Even better, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep has been proven to help with memory retention!

In taking the time for yourself and practicing mindfulness, you could choose to make a ritual - stick to that ritual, even on exam days. That ritual might be taking your dog for a walk or simply making your morning coffee.

With all these things in mind, it's time to focus on the task ahead. You are on the home straight now! Knuckle down for the next few weeks (remembering that is is only a few weeks). Then you can celebrate once it's all done, with the knowledge that you've given it your best shot!

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