Everyone wants to excel in the exams. But most don’t like the backbreaking effort it takes to score high grades. Here are a few ways you can still do well, or even better, for the exams while studying less.
1) Engage Yourself
‘Studying’ conjures up an image of a poor student torturing himself with the sheer boredom of sucking in dry information from a thick book. It is as if the more hardship one endures, the better he will do in the exams. This is a shocking mistake. If learning is a chore, then it isn’t efficient. Passive reading does not produce a high rate of information retention. Test yourself. How much of this paragraph do you think you can remember a day later? Dynamic learning involves employing a variety of methods that produces kinesthetic output. It could be rewriting notes in bullet points or mind-maps, reflecting on how the ideas are inter-related, or even teaching what you have learnt to others. These active methods of learning are engaging. Despite being more time-consuming, overall productivity increases due to improved information retention. Moreover, if you make brief notes, it takes lesser time to refer than from lengthy study materials.
2) Rest and Sleep
This is probably the most commonsensical thing but often neglected. If you don’t take regular breaks, it results in exhaustion and you can’t push yourself when that happens. It is tempting to spend the entire day studying as it helps to ease your guilt. It makes you feel like you are working very hard so that even if you don’t do well for your test, it isn’t your fault anymore. Quite commonly, people start to overload information just before the exam, burning the midnight oil if need be. It is extremely unproductive and unhealthy when you end up sleep-deprived and irritable on the day of the exam. It is better to have studying blocks of 1.5 hours and breaks in between them. For every few breaks, have a long one that lasts for at least an hour. Ensuring there is enough time for exercise and leisure will also help you keep up a healthy state of being in tackling the exam.
3) Keep to a Schedule
You can have a well-balanced lifestyle only if you stick to a schedule. If you aren’t able to finish the revision on time, it is unlikely that you will have the peace of mind to rest. You are more likely to launch into a spiral of panicked cramming. Start your revision early so that you would be able to keep the workload evenly distributed across the week. Studies show that practices with intervals in between are more effective than a continuous series of practices. Set SMART goals for each week to make sure you are on track.
Specific & Measurable: e.g. ‘Finish revising chapters 1-8 of the Science textbook’ INSTEAD OF ‘Finish revising most of Science.’
Adjustable: If you catch a bad flu and are down for a couple of days, your plan shouldn’t completely come to stand on end.
Realistic: No ‘Study everything by tonight.’
Time: Set a deadline for each goal to be met (e.g. three weeks before the exam, two weeks before the exam, one week before exam…)
4) Use Memory Techniques
Mnemonics like the use of acronyms (e.g. SMART goals) are a good way to commit information to long-term memory. There are other techniques too, such as Memory Palace, Visualisation, etc. These are primarily methods to structure information and organise them in a comprehensible form in the mind. It is easier to use this information as opposed to stray strands of knowledge tangled up in different corners of your brain.
5) Make a Cheat Sheet
It’s down to the night before the exam. All of what you have studied seem to have eluded you. Making a cheat sheet can help to reinforce whatever you have learnt, not to mention calm your nerves. It may contain a brief summary of your study material, which can function as some sort of road map, or essential information such as key formulae or principles. It is better than frantically flipping through the books from page 1.
There is no perfect method of studying. It is crucial to work out how best you can study to make the best productivity gains. Once you get it, just keep calm, and study on.