Exams, to some, the bane of their existence; to others, the cause of infinite stress and sleepless nights. No matter who you are, exams are inevitable nerve-wracking events which you have to go through every so often. Almost everyone can agree that they have felt that they would be better off without exams at one point of their lives. However, since exams are inevitable and inescapable, we should face them head on instead of wishing them away and think of ways on how to not only get through them, but also ace them. This, coupled with the fact that this semester’s final exam is looming, made me think that now is the perfect chance to share my tips on how to perform well in all of your exams.
1. Create a schedule and pace yourself
Before you start revising for your exams, be sure to have at least a rough schedule of the revisions you will be doing. Depending on who you are, you might want to revise one subject at a time or you might want to revise multiple subjects simultaneously. Both methods are actually viable but the major factor you should consider when creating your revision schedule should be your abilities and shortcoming. This is where knowing your own strengths and weaknesses come in. Start revising your weaker subjects earlier and put in more time into your weaker subjects. For example, you might be weak at memorizing facts, so to overcome this weakness, you should start revising the subjects which require a lot of memorization early on and allocate more time to these subjects. Another important thing to remember when planning your schedule is to make sure you have breaks between your study sessions. DO NOT cram your schedule as doing so will only cause you to experience information overload and remember only a small fraction of what you studied. Make sure you have sufficient time to rest and digest the information as well as reflect on what you have learned.
2. Deal with procrastination
Now that you have a proper schedule, you should adhere to it and you should have ample time to thoroughly revise all your subjects. However, there is one thing standing between you and following your schedule, and that is yourself, specifically your procrastination. So, if you have a habit of procrastinating everything, how should you deal with it? Well, my suggestion would be to use the age-old technique of setting up a reward/punishment system. Find something that you like and actually enjoy and use it as a reward whenever you adhere to your schedule. It can be small things such as eating ice-cream or playing with your smartphone, but just make sure it is proportional to how much of your schedule you have stuck with. Inversely, you have to find things you dislike and set them as punishment for whenever you sidetrack or procrastinate. For some, it might be being unable to use your smartphone for a day but whatever the punishment you choose, just make sure it does not substantially hurt you physically or mentally but is enough to annoy you or cause inconveniences in your daily life.
3. Be confident
Research has shown that people perform better when they have faith in their abilities. Simply believing that you have the capabilities to achieve something can improve your results and this is especially useful when facing exams. Before sitting for an exam, remember to tell yourself that you have the skills and abilities needed to ace the exam and DO NOT think that you are unworthy of good results. Everyone can achieve good results as long as they put in enough time and effort into studying and preparing for exams.
4. Understand the system, Beat the system
If you think about it, exams are just systems designed to test our proficiency and understanding of a subject. However, systems are never perfect and you can always find loopholes around them and exams are no different. When I say loopholes, I don’t mean cheating in exams. DO NOT cheat in exams as is it extremely immoral and unethical to do so. Even if you can get past the moral barrier inside yourself, if you think of cheating from a logical perspective, the repercussions and risk of being caught cheating far outweigh the benefits cheating bring. So, what do I mean by exploiting loopholes? Well, exams are not random, they are made by people who design them based on previous statistics and what topics are suitable to test the students on. Hence, there is a pattern to every exam and similar to things that have a pattern, you can predict what comes next. Use the resources available to you to figure out this pattern and you can have a rough idea what will come out for an exam.
For example, you can ask your seniors about the exam and see if what they say about the exam is consistent or has a pattern. You can also check out past year questions to see which topics are frequently tested and which are usually ignored and also figure out if there are recurring questions. You have to also understand the topics you are studying and the format of the exam. This is because some complex and elaborate topics are not suited to be tested in multiple choice question format and will usually come out in essay format and vice versa. Hence, you can understand which topics you have to study in depth and which you can just skim through. Another important technique is knowing who comes up with the exam questions. By knowing who designs the questions, you can guess what kinds of questions will come out. Let’s say the person who designs the exam paper likes trick questions, then you might want to focus on the details and complex questions of a subject. If the person designing the exam paper likes to reuse old questions, then you can try to find past year questions or ask your seniors about that exam.
My point is, the more you know about the exam system you will face, the higher the chances of you achieving great results without putting in as much effort as someone who does not understand the exam system at all. Exams make themselves seem like they are completely random and students have to study everything thoroughly to even pass them. However, the truth is far from that. You can ace your exams without doing so if you understand the workings of the exam system. By understanding the system, you can make educated guesses on what will come out in an exam and thus, you can focus on those topics and put less emphasis on the other topics instead of studying everything in a subject. This way, not only do you have in depth understandings of topics likely to come out in an exam, you also have more time to revise other subjects or even revise every subject another time. So, study smart, not hard.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, you should get more sleep when exams are approaching. Sleep when adequate, is your best friend during exam season, but the lack of it, is your worst enemy. It is widely known that the lack of sleep can have some negative effects on our mind and body such as shorter attention span, trouble with concentration and memory. So if you apply these effects on your studies, what you get is hazy recollections of your midnight study sessions and concentration issues when studying. On the other hand, if you have adequate sleep, your brain will be refreshed and your memory as well as concentration will be at optimum performance. This enables you to clearly remember what you have studied and easily concentrate.
Imagine a situation where you have 10 topics to study and the exam is tomorrow in the morning. The time is almost midnight and you have only finished 6 topics. You are now faced with a dilemma, do you go to sleep, or do you burn the midnight oil? Well, most of us will probably choose to stay up late to study everything, but the better approach would be to go to sleep. If you stay up late to study, your memory of all the topics you have studied will be vague at best. However, if you go to sleep, you will have a clear memory of all the topics you have studied during the exam. So, you can perfectly answer all the questions regarding the topics you have studied if you chose to turn in. Whereas if you chose to burn the midnight oil, you might be able to answer most of the questions but even then, your answers are not perfect and might be too shallow. You might not even be able to answer many questions depending on how ambiguous your recollection of your study session is.
Hence, it is SUPER important that you get enough sleep before your exams. Design your schedule in a way that does not require you to stay up late to finish your revision and make sure you get some good sleep before any exam. For those of you who like to study through the night, you might want to reconsider your strategy and fix your abnormal sleeping schedule.
In short, exams are not easy for the majority of us. Despite that, we all can take initiatives to study smarter and more efficiently to make it easier on us and increase our chances of getting good grades. As different people have different learning styles, some of my tips might not appeal to you, but even so, I decided to present these tips which I think will be useful to a lot of people (hence the title). I hope that the tips in this guide will help you in your studies and assist you in getting that ‘A’ for most if not all of your subjects.