We recently gave you some pointers on how to make the most of your exam period. Our last suggestion in that article was to try not to get too stressed out, which is definitely good advice but is much more easily said than done. So, we thought we’d better dedicate an entire post on how to prepare properly without giving yourself a headache. Here’s our advice.
Start your revision a few weeks earlier
Revision isn’t the most exciting of tasks – we’re certainly with you on that – but it is a crucial one, because this is how you get everything fresh in your mind again ready for the big day(s). If you don’t revise, you’ll just have to rely on what you remember from your lectures and seminars – which for most of us is not very much at all. If you avoid revision until the last few days before the exam, there’s a good chance you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount of info you’ve got to try and remember in such a short space of time.
So, the solution is to start earlier. This way you’ll absorb the information properly over a longer period of time, and you won’t get that awful irritated feeling that rushing can cause. 20 minutes a day on each subject or module is all you need to do – we’re not talking about three- and four-hour blocks of intense revision.
Take regular breaks
If for whatever reason you didn’t or couldn’t start your revision early, you’ll probably have no choice but to hit it hard a couple of days before the exam. In this case, you should break your revision up into segments. Don’t do four hours all in one go – try four one-hour sessions, or eight half-hour sessions. Your breaks can be as short as ten minutes at a time if you want – just make sure you get up and move around a bit to prevent that cooped-up feeling.
Make a cup of tea or coffee, take a stroll to the shop, go for a jog, watch an episode of something on Netflix – whatever it is that gives you that temporary disconnect.
Eat properly and stay hydrated
Food and drink certainly does aid studying, but only if it’s the right kind. Loading up on high-sugar foods and caffeine is an exam preparation employed by many, because it gives you energy, but it’s probably not the best approach. Too much sugar can bring you crashing down and too much caffeine can exacerbate the feelings of anxiety we all get (to some degree or other) around exam time.
Have a few coffees or teas each day by all means, but avoid cans of energy drinks like Monster and Relentless – too much of that stuff will give you palpitations. And instead of wolfing a Mars bar every hour, try having healthier snacks like Greek yogurt, blueberries and granola, or a few pieces of fruit. The best drink, as always, is water – and plenty of it.
Don’t stay up all night
Pulling an all-nighter to cram for the big exam might pay off in movies and TV series, but it rarely does in real life. You’ll most likely arrive at the exam the next morning looking like you’ve been hit by a train – and probably feeling like it, too. Rather than staying up until 4am revising, go to bed early and set your alarm for 5-6am, giving you at least two hours of cramming before you have to set off. It’ll go much better if you’ve got a good night’s sleep behind you, and you should feel nice and relaxed going into the exam.