Exams! How many times a year does this word cross our minds and torture us? No matter how hard we want to try it, we cannot just ignore exams. Even those who are very laid back about everything are seen outside examination rooms trying to cram as much as possible into their heads minutes before the exam starts! Preparing for exams can have many reasons varying from person to person, be it parental pressure, thirst to prove yourself as smart, beating your competitor, getting highest GPA, refraining from repeating a course or even avoiding looking dumb in front of your friends!
Whatever the reason, studying for exams is inevitable for everyone. So the question arises, how to go about it without going through much trouble for it. The answer is simple, do not procrastinate! If you take your work load bit by bit on a daily or alternate day basis, you will not regret it.
Start by attending classes. It’s that simple. If you attend classes, one work load will be taken off your chest, and that is the ‘understanding’ part. Half the work is done when you understand what has been taught in class. Then during exam times all you need to do is revise your concepts and do rote learning where required!
Now coming to some concrete tips to help you study for course exams:
Firstly, I know this may sound ridiculous to some of the students out there, make your own notes! This really helps you; because you write what the teacher is saying how you understand it in your own way of writing, which will make it easier for you to go through when exams come up. Photocopying other’s notes right before exams can sound pretty attractive, but reading what others have written, trying to understand their handwriting, trying to get what the short forms they used mean, can all be very tedious work. Avoid all that and do your own work.
Secondly, know your weakness and put in effort accordingly. If you have trouble in mathematical subjects, pay extra attention in them and start preparing for them before hand. The only thing that can help you in mathematical subjects such as stats, algebra, calculus, etc. is PRACTISE! If you have trouble in analytical subjects, ask your friends or teachers to help you where you need it before the exams, not on the day of the exam!
Make a timetable! I know it sounds cliched, but it’s very true! Unless you have some plan in mind of going about your numerous subjects, you will mess up badly. Looking at the exam timetable helps. The exams which are in the end, you should prepare for them first! This will be helpful, because as you get closer to exam date, the first few ones will occupy your mind all the time, so it will be good for you to have dealt with the latter ones beforehand.
Whatever you have to rote learn, leave that for the end. I know from personal experience that what you rote learn, you can’t retain in mind for very long. Therefore, just give that stuff a reading to know what it’s about, so that it’s not a complete surprise to read that on the day before the exam!
Making flash cards with all the headings and subheadings under them help a lot for theoretical subjects. This way you can revise at last moment what topic is under what heading, it helps you make sense of things.
The thing which helps me most in theoretical subjects requiring rote learning is use of mnemonics. I make acronyms of a lot of bullet points starting with their first letters; these make it easier to remember many points under a particular heading. I try to make acronyms with words I’m familiar with, so that it’s easier to remember. Another way to remember these mnemonics is to discuss them with your friends, and make jokes regarding them. That way you will remember exactly which points you made an acronym for and with what funny word!
Lastly, I would say that sleeping before the exam is very important. Study till around midnight, cause after that your brain cells do not work to their best potential. Give them rest. Whatever you do try to learn then, will be not getting transferred to your long term memory. Do not have competitions with your friends on who slept the least before the exam!
Wake up in morning 3 to 4 hours before the exams and revise the whole course once more. This will refresh everything you studied. You may even leave the most important topics for this morning study. I have done it many times and it is the best time to learn something new because you just cannot delay it any longer and the tension itself is enough to make you remember everything!
If you follow these tips I have given you, I assure you, you will score much better than what you are scoring right now!