Finals are approaching, and we all know how painful it feels to look at a huge amount of materials knowing that finals are just a few weeks, or even days away. In this post, I am going to answer some questions related to preparing for exams, including how to make a study plan and how to actually study.
Make a Study Plan
A lot of people understand the need of having a plan, but very few can actually estimate their ability and make the best plan for themselves. This process, however, is very important because you want to ensure that you have sufficiently familiar with the knowledge before the exams.
List out everything that you have to study
This seems to be very easy and simple, since you already a syllabus with you, but that’s not just it. To list everything you have to study means:
- Understanding what you are more familiar with and what topics you need to pay more attention to. Separate the topics in three categories
- Things you are not familiar with at all (that you probably haven’t paid attention during class, and haven’t read through them)
- Things you have already gone through once and have a rough idea what it is about, but not clear with the detail
- Things you are quite familiar with, that you just want to go through them once again to memorize them
- Find out what practice and study materials you need to complete and go through. There may be tutorial questions that you need to study, or practice paper or past papers that you need to go through. Make sure to list them out as well.
Start planning on a monthly calendar
A monthly calendar is great because you can visualize your plan and make it easy for you to estimate how much time you have till your exams. As to how to schedule your priorities, here is the way that works for me:
- Try to leave some time for you to review the materials. That means, don’t plan anything on it because it is highly likely that you would procrastinate. This week is for you to complete the planned tasks that you have left undone in the past few weeks.
- You should get the everything on the syllabus to the second category (rough idea – but not clear with the detail) 2-7 days before the exam.
- The key is to understand everything so that they can be in your long-term memory.
- At this stage, I would usually have prepared an index card for each topic, and it would have an outline of the chapter (or question attack plans) – this allows me to grasp the overall structure and outline of the topics.
- If you have the feeling that you MUST remember things word by word / very clearly, mark them with a red pen or something to make sure they stand out so you can quickly memorize them during the final review.
- The last few days is for you to memorize the information – which I call it as a final review time.
- This is the time for you to really try to memorize the key terms, definitions, spelling, formulas and more.
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How to study for exams?
I always find it difficult to concentrate when I have a very cluttered study space. Therefore, you may want to dedicate some time to organize your study space. This may help you to
- Remove distractions.
- Prepare yourself for studying. Getting into a right mindset is very important. It’s like telling your mind that you are going to work intensively and prepare yourself for the challenge.
Check out my previous post on creating and organizing study space to learn some strategies for creating the study space that is best for you.
Creating your study guide is very important when it comes to studying for finals. With so much information to digest, you will need to make your own notes to consolidating everything, and to make sure you have all the materials to study. Not only does it aid your final review process (since you will have a study guide to go through the day before the exam), making the study guides itself is a good way to study. It reinforces your memory and allows you to familiarize yourself with the information. Make sure to check out my post on how to create your study guide, and also take a look at the study guides that I made for myself when I was studying for my politics and law courses.
Memorize with index cards
Scientific research shows that we are all very good at recognizing things, but that does not mean that we are good at recalling them (which is exactly what requires during exams). So, instead of just reading your notes, definitely quiz yourself using flashcards, or just look at the heading of the notes and recall as much information as possible.
Here are different ways to make use of index cards:
- Write out the definitions of the key terms at the back and quiz yourself.
- Write out questions and answers on the two sides and quiz yourself.
- Write out the overview/outline of each chapter to keep track
- Draw mind maps
- Write out key information or things you don’t know for each chapter on the card
- Write down the difficult questions and answers you have come across in your textbooks or practice tests to repeatedly revise them
- Write down everything in your mind to check how much you have remembered.
Get yourself motivated
When we are studying for exams, we are bound to feel stressed, or even demotivated at certain times. If you want to follow your study plan, you will need to manage your stress and prevent procrastination, so as to keep up with your progress. Check out the following articles: how to manage study stress and be more motivated, as well as how to study with severe procrastination.
The morning before your exams
Try not to go through anything new, you probably can’t remember/understand them anyway. Cramming at the very last minute will only stress you out and make you feel like you don’t know your stuff well. Instead, try to give your mind a break and relieve yourself from the intense stress.
The best thing to do is probably simply to go through the summary sheet you made before exams. It will help you to recall all the information you have memorized and you won’t panic since it’s everything that you have already studied. Reviewing them would increase your confidence and would also help your mind to consolidate the information.
Last but not least, definitely have breakfast. You don’t want to be starving during exams, and it will give you the energy to take the exam. Good luck!
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