3 May 2019
LAWS’ tutor, Rafael Savva reflects on his experiences during exam periods as an undergraduate student and provides his tips and advice for success.

Students see the exam period as a difficult, daunting experience they need to cope with. At least that was my experience as an undergraduate student. Back then, I often found it difficult to revise and prepare for my exams due to excessive stress, and I was mentally and physically fatigued from the whole process. Regardless, my experience taught me some valuable lessons which I want to share with you to make your exam period less stressful.

1. Take your time

Revision is different for everybody, but it takes time. You must prepare your notes, schedule your revision sessions according to your exam timetable and use methods that suit you to attain the information needed. It sounds like a lot to do, and you can easily be overwhelmed by the volume of work that revision requires. An important part of good exam preparation is to list absolutely everything that you have to do and give yourself time to organise a timetable planning how to get it all done. Set your priorities first and schedule your revision accordingly. You may use a simple calendar, an organising app, or just a piece of paper that you can stick on your wall.

2. Manage your time effectively

Long sessions will rarely help you revise effectively. Cramming your study will lower your ability to retain information, which will inevitably cause you anxiety because you will not keep up with your schedule. Good organisation of your timetable includes considering a realistic daily plan that will help you to boost your performance. Study in hourly or thirty-minute increments and have 5-10 minutes breaks in between.

Think about making your revision more efficient. Revision is an active, not a passive activity. Re-reading notes is rarely an effective way to ensure your understanding of the topic. Rather, review past papers to familiarise yourself with the kinds of questions that you may have to answer in the exam. You should also practise with answering these questions to time yourself and test your understanding. It is equally important to minimise distractions while studying as well. Texting, social media checking, and watching television will not help you get the work done if you do them while you study. Keep these distractions as your treat during your breaks and leave your sessions purely for studying.

3. Don’t panic and make time to relax

Some stress is a spark -that is a good thing. It keeps you on top of your schedule and can motivate you to work hard and achieve your goals. Panicking however is a wildfire. Bad organisation and constant negativity will clearly lead you to the panicking path. When creating your schedule, do not set unrealistic goals for each day, as that will increase your stress levels. In addition, try not to think negative thoughts such as ‘I should be studying harder’ or ‘I’m never going to do well on this one’. What you should do instead is to stay positive and create time and space for your mind to relax. After your revision is done for the day do some social activities. You may want to hang out with your friends, watch a movie, or do some exercise. Whatever it is that you love, keep doing it. That way, you will give your brain some time to rest and digest information better, not to mention the energy boost you will get from lightening the exam period mood a bit.

4. Your body is your temple: Nothing in excess, everything in moderation

I have heard a lot of urban legends about the ‘secrets’ that will help you to ace your exams. I hate to disappoint you, but they will not. ‘Superfoods’ that give energy, vitamins, coffee, energy drinks and many more may have a place in a person’s nutrition, but an excess consumption of such products during exams will definitely not assist you. During your exam period, try to maintain a balanced diet. Do not over-consume coffee or energy drinks- excessive caffeine and taurine raises your stress levels. Try also to get enough sleep to keep you fresh and to allow you to perform in the long-term. Pulling all-nighters in exam period is tempting, but usually they do not work- our brains are developed to rest during the night. Try to study during the day and leave nights for you to rest. You deserve it after all!

5. Remember…

The exam period is a tiring time within which you should aim to thrive, not to suffer. Good organisation and a stress-free mind will help you do that.

Good luck with your exams!