Exams are round the corner and it’s time for stress to make its customary appearance. Time to burrow yourself deep in pages, highlighting every important line and fervently preparing notes in an attempt to soak in a semester’s worth of knowledge in just a few days. However, there are better alternatives to all nighters and cramming. The code to cracking your exams is studying smart. Realistic, not idealistic goals will help you succeed.
We’ve prepared some hacks for beating indecision and maximizing productivity and learning.
1. Productivity And Time Management Hacks To Keep You On Track
If you’re under the illusion that as exams approach, you will buckle down and study, you’re falling into the “better under pressure” theory trap. However, there are distractions everywhere, especially on the Internet. Put your device on airplane mode for an uninterrupted study time. Install distraction-blocking apps or plugins like SelfControl to curb the temptation of watching Youtube videos, reading countless threads on Reddit, or scrolling down memes on Facebook.
Getting Started With Studying
- 1. Compile a comprehensive list of topics: Flip through your course, analyse the exam pattern and accordingly compile a list of topics to be conquered.
- 2. Post that, you must break down this list into smaller, achievable chunks of topics.
- 3. Once the above mentioned tasks are accomplished, you need to schedule time for each task, depending on the complexity of the subject matter, your familiarity to it, and other numerous parameters.
- 4. After completing each topic, or a set of interlinked topics, take some moment off to rejuvenate yourself. Your brain needs to rest and integrate what you’ve learned.
Your brain will always work better if it’s given time to refresh and relax. In such a scenario, the technique of ‘space repetitions’ advocates taking scheduled breaks in between the study sessions to retain more in lesser time. According to research conducted by Robert Bjork, a top expert in human learning and memory, if you learn in short intervals of time and test yourself on the same it will be a much more effective technique than squeezing in information over a long cramming session.
Pomodoro Technique is a tried and tested time management tool based on spaced out session technique which divides your study session into four sessions of 25 minute each called Pomodoro. After each Pomodoro is completed, you earn a 5-minute break to freshen up your mind and relax. It is effective in enhancing your focus, reading speed and grasping power, which is why The New York Times even handed it a Letter of Recommendation!
2. Maximising Your Learning Potential
Every person has a distinct learning style. A learning style refers to how a person best soaks in knowledge, processes, stores and retrieves it later when required. Neil Fleming, a New Zealand professor, categorized learning styles into 3 distinct categories in his Fleming’s VAK (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) model. While visual learners prefer to ‘see’ the material to remember through textbooks, graphs, presentations, etc, an auditory learner has to ‘hear’ the information to truly absorb it. A kinesthetic learner, always energetic would instead prefer ‘moving around’ while learning. If you know students that pace or toss a ball in the air while revising chemical formulas, you know a kinesthetic learner. Selecting the right approach to maximize learning potential and identifying your own learning style is imperative.
If you’re unsure which learning style suits you best, use multiple sensory modalities to find out. Begin with using a combination of visual images, auditory tools (repeating the text to yourself aloud), or writing down information, linking information to songs, catchy phrases, etc. Try to integrate visual cues such as diagrams or maps and verbal cues like titles and authors to better organise the information in your head. Experiment and find what works for you. Perhaps making colourful notes accelerates your learning, or moving around while memorizing keeps your mind agile.
Learning can be split into active and passive categories. Reading text, listening to lectures, viewing art, graphs, seeing and hearing illustrated videos, are examples of passive learning. Most information comes from a passive source. Graduating into active learning involves delivering the information and ideas through speech ( (giving a talk, multimedia programs) and undertaking tutoring and simulations to deepen your grasp on any subject matter. Make a conscious effort to engage in active learning and unlock your potential.
3. Focus and Fight Pre-Exam Stress
Staying focused while studying is easier said than done. A monotonous study schedule, anxiety, sleep deficiency, and unhealthy eating habits can be detrimental to your health.
Change your tune: a research study found a positive correlation between listening to classical music and higher assessment scores. In fact, a theory called the Mozart Effect propounds that listening to Mozart can enhance mental performance, although the jury is still out on the validity of the theory. Choosing what to listen is critical. Music with lyrics can be distracting while soft, classic music can help in calming your nerves.
Exam season can be a daunting time for students. Although a little stress acts as a positive stimulant in studying, anxiety beyond that level interferes with your learning, and may even cause poor performance in exams. Fighting pre-exam stress effectively leads to enhanced productivity and focus.To begin with, carry out an exercise at converting all your negative thoughts into positive ones by writing them down. Against each negative thought, then come up with a positive, reassuring counter thought. For instance, if you’re biting your nails over poor performance in the past exams, seek reassurance from the fact that you have a more robust study plan in place this time around.
When all is said and done, nothing is effective if you’re not healthy! So, if you’re constantly sipping sugary drinks, your blood sugar will shoot up and start to interfere with your concentration and energy levels. Similarly, too much of caffeine can cause your anxiety levels to peak.
4. Memory Improvisation Techniques To Master
Memorizing key details, up-front seems a fairly easy function but often we find ourselves feeling exhausted when we have to recall a particular detail that we came across some 4-5 months back. This is because retaining minute details over a longer period of time is a bit challenging for our memory. Associating words or situations with different phrases, images, familiar objects, helps with the retention. Reinforcing your memory is easier by designing logical connections.
Organize information neatly inside your brain. Laying out the information in a hierarchy or sequence, or through visual cues is effective. For instance, to prepare for a Constitution exam, create a neat flowchart with different divisions of the government based on their authority. Move beyond outlines or paragraphs and start thinking of ideas in phrases or words to retain complex information.
Spider webs or mind maps are powerful tools! They help you in creating a linked flow of information, aided with diagrams, phrases, words, to help you better process and retrieve the information by delivering a bird’s eye view of the subject. Building sequences, connections, and arriving at conclusions becomes procedural and easy. Spider webs can be specially used for essay writing and conducting revisions.
Mnemonics are yet another robust technique. This involves converting information into a song, rhyme, acronym, or phrase for remembering a list of facts in a particular sequence. We’ve all memorized names of planets in the order of their distance from the Sun as “My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Necklace”. Or the colours of the rainbow as ROYGBIV by incorporating the first letters of each for easy recall.
An ancient technique called Mind Palaces or the method of loci is also gaining popularity as a memory fostering approach. Using a familiar physical place as a guide to storing and recalling information is known to help strongly if you’re a visual learner. Benedict Cumberbatch can be seen employing this technique to extract complicated chemical formulae in the hit British drama, Sherlock. And ‘Sherlocking’ your degree with Mind Palaces is actually really simple and effective!
Preparing for your exams is a journey. Foresight and consistent preparation are prerequisites. What works for you might not be effective for someone else. Thankfully, we have myriad of scientifically backed memory techniques at our disposal. Be careful to employ and master revision techniques to optimise the concepts you’ve learned, and gear yourself towards an exam-ready state of mind! And don’t forget; exams are only the means, and not an end in themselves!0