It’s that dreaded time of year again…and no I’m not talking about trying to secure a summer job. Although exams can be a stressful time in the semester – especially for students that are new to the university environment – it doesn’t have to be!
One of the most stressful things about studying for exams is time management; how can there possibly be enough hours in the day to get through all of the material from all of the classes we are responsible for, and what’s more, to do it well?! Here are a few tips that will help you to effectively use your time in order to get the most out of exam prep!
The stressed-out student’s survival guide to exam prep:
- Make a plan and set specific goals; know exactly what it is you want to accomplish before you set out to do so. (Weekly schedules may be a useful tool! Drop by the Centre for Student Success and we can help you make one.)
- Be proactive! Identify any potential disruptions and try to eliminate or avoid them.
- Practice your metacognitive skills! Consider times when you are most and least productive. If you are a “night person” don’t keep telling yourself that you’ll get up extra early squeeze some study time in, because chances are it won’t happen. It will not help you to plan study sessions that will never come to pass. So, plan your day accordingly and study when you’ll get the most out of it!
- Remember to always plan for more time than you think you need. Having some unexpected free time is always better than realizing you don’t have enough time.
- Don’t forget to take breaks! Research suggests that students learn the most during the first and last 10 mins of study time. There’s nothing wrong with taking a quick break after 20 min-30 min intervals to get a snack or take a quick walk.
- Prioritize! We are all busy people with a lot of things to do. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming. Make sure you give yourself the most time for the areas you feel are most important. When deciding where to begin, it is important to consider all of your courses, and plan study time according to the order of exams as well as the difficulty level of each. Start with the material you feel least confident about (“while you’re fresh and alert”). For instance you may find it most productive beginning with the hardest/more complicated subject matter, and ending with the easiest. Or perhaps designating more time and attention to the course that you feel most requires it. It might help to keep in mind how heavily each exam is weighted. Remember you are the best judge of your own strengths and weaknesses!
- If there is a particular subject or concept that seems overwhelming, break it up into smaller and more manageable sections.
- Sometimes, alternating between subjects is helpful (i.e. spend 30 mins on History, then 30 mins on English).
- Long-distance vs. short-distance studying. Make sure you figure out which best works for you. Can you study for extended periods of time while still maintain productivity and attention? Most people find they cannot. If this is the case for you, remember to take breaks every 30-40 mins, or try alternating subjects. It will not help you to spend 3 hours studying BF190 only to realize that only about an hour of that time was spent productively.
- Make sure that you’re not just wasting your time, and the greatest time saver is concentration! A way to do this is to consider active vs. passive learning. Research suggests that simply reading over information rarely works for students’ recall ability. You must therefore make your study time active! Some ways to do this include: organizing information according to headings and themes; summarizing important ideas in your own words; or even something as simple as really thinking about what it is you’re reading – make sure that you’re not thinking about other things while you read.
No one is saying that exam time isn’t stressful – exams are important, therefore, it’s only natural that you want to do well. If you keep these tips in mind, it will hopefully be a little less daunting. Good luck and have a wonderful summer break; it’s well deserved!
All the best,
Fleet, Joan, Fiona Goodchild, and Richard Zajchowski. Learning for Success: Effective Strategies for Students. 3rd Ed. Scarborough: Nelson Thomson Learning, 1999. Print.
Hay, Iain, Dianne Bochner, Carlo Dungey, and Nellie Perret. Making The Grade: A Guide to Study and Success. Candian Ed. Don Mills: Oxford UP, 2012. Print.
O’Brien, Linda. How To Get Good Grades at a College or University. Canadian Ed. Dayton: Woodburn Press, 2009. Print.
Pauk, Walter. How to Study in College. 7th Ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001. Print.