With lectures and seminars drawing to a close, this can only mean one thing: exam season.
Finding a suitable place to study seems much harder when the library is completely full by 9am. So does trying to learn and retain large amounts of information by plastering revision posters onto your bedroom walls. Is it even possible to still have some sort of social life in term 3?
Without a doubt, term 3 can become a stressful period. But that’s all it is – a period. Right now, it might seem as though you are revising forever, but before you know it, exams will be over. Finding out what works best for you is crucial during exam season. Here are some top tips to help get you through:
1) Make a revision timetable…
This is arguably the most important advice. You may think it’s tedious but making a revision timetable will help ensure you are spending sufficient time on each topic. Staying organised by writing down exactly what you want to revise each day or week will not only boost your motivation but allow you to progress through your work quicker. There are loads of different ways of making one, so find out what works for you.
Right now, it might seem as though you are revising forever, but before you know it, exams will be over
2) …And stick to it!
We all know how tough it can be to follow your revision timetable. At one point or another, a simple five minutes of procrastination, taking a taking a ‘brief’ break to check YouTube or scroll through social media can turn into hours of ending up not completing anything.
One way to get around this is to create a strict and comprehensive timetable.
You could do this by charting your revision sessions all the way up until the beginning of exam season. Or if you prefer a more flexible approach, you could plan the week ahead or even just blocks of the next few days.
3) But be realistic (about what you can and cannot revise)
While you should aim to make your timetable strict and paramount, it is important to make sure you are realistic with yourself. You know how you work better than anyone else.
It is important to make sure you are realistic with yourself
4) Do ‘little a lot’, not the other way around
You may want to revise more than one topic a day but can’t manage to get through as much as you want.
Try ‘interleaving’. This is breaking up your revision timetable by switching between modules and topics during the day, which prevents your brain from getting bored or tired.
You shouldn’t forget about what you’ve studied before when doing this; try to make links and find similarities and differences between the topics you’ve covered already.
Interleaving may feel like a slow process, but the opposite (cramming) can be very overwhelming and stressful, so avoid it if at all possible. When you’re stressed, it’s harder to remember things and therefore high-quality revision is sacrificed.
Comparing cramming against spacing (revising little and often), some studies have noted a 10% to 30% difference in results.
But if you find yourself in a position where you absolutely need to cram, make sure you take frequent breaks and get enough sleep because, otherwise, you’d be doing more harm than good.
5) ‘The early bird catches the worm’
Someone’s probably told you this saying at one stage. It is most applicable during exam season.
It helps to try and start earlier in the day. You will feel much better if you start revising at nine or ten and finish at four, as opposed to waking up late, starting at two and working into the late, dark hours. Starting earlier means you can spend the evening away from revision and take the time to cook a nice, healthy dinner.
Comparing cramming against spacing (revising little and often), some studies have noted a 10% to 30% difference in results
6) Take Breaks!
Studies show that “shorter 20-30 minutes” are the best way to revise. Revising for shorter periods and taking regular breaks in between helps to keep your brain refreshed. Even if you choose to study only one topic a day, doing it well makes all the difference (as opposed to trying to cram 10 different topics into your day all at once). It can be hard to concentrate on revision for long periods of time without becoming distracted. It may be better to split your revision into study sessions; for example, you could be revising for a 50-minute session with no distractions and then reward yourself with a 10-minute break.
On your break, try to do something completely different to what you are studying and something that doesn’t require much thinking. Maybe go outside and get some fresh air. The library is hot and stuffy at the best of times, so leaving every once in a while, will help you focus better during your revision.
Remember: revision is about quality, not quantity, and short breaks will keep your brain fresh.
7) Mix it up!
Methods: There are tons of revision methods that students have honed over the years – you may already know what works for you but, if not, give something new a try. Notes, flash cards, mind maps and past papers are just a few examples.
Of course, it’s best to adapt your techniques at different stages of your revision. For instance, you could start by taking notes on the topic and then condense them down into mind maps. Then you can streamline it even further onto flash cards and finally apply what you have learned to past papers. Doing past papers in the last phase of revision is great practice for applying what you have learned in an exam scenario, as well as ensuring you know what to expect from the exam.
Pick methods that will work well for you and that are tailored to your degree and what the exam comprises.
Third year Chemistry student, Megan Green, offers some advice: “Colour coding is key and, as you go over a topic, cut it down to smaller key points each time.”
Meanwhile, second year French and German student, Daniel Goodbourn, says: “I mainly use Memrise for all the vocab I’ve written down in class or on worksheets. I think watching TV in the language is also useful. I’ve been watching English shows with French or German dubbing or subtitles.”
Lastly, third-year Engineering student, Chris Collier, adds: “I usually make A4 revision sheets packed with different facts and information. Knowing your way around the databook is also handy.”
Study buddies: Studying with others – providing you don’t get distracted – can be very effective. You can test each other and explain parts of the course the other person may not understand. This can help consolidate your own knowledge on the subject.
Location: Changing where you revise throughout the day can often lead to more effective revision sessions. Don’t stay locked inside your room all day, move around and keep yourself ticking.
Pick methods that will work well for you and that are tailored to your degree and what the exam comprises
8) Reduce the distractions
Phones: During your revision sessions, move your phone away from you or turn it off (put it in a cupboard if you’re finding it difficult). Don’t let your phone distract you for the 50 minutes you are revising, and leave those messages and notifications for your break.
9) But still try and have fun!
Allowing yourself to do the things you want to do in the evenings – for example, going to the cinema, out for dinner, bowling or simply a walk – will help ease the stress at such a stressful time of year. If you starve yourself of the things you enjoy, you will hate revision even more and your productivity will dwindle.
10) Take care of yourself
It’s incredibly important to keep a healthy, balanced diet and drink lots of water during the exam period as this will sustain you and improve your alertness.
Although eating sugary snacks for energy can be tempting, it is better to eat something healthy which releases energy slowly. Eating high sugar foods may give you an initial buzz, but you will quickly feel the slump. If you find it difficult to cook a healthy meal in the evening after a stressful day, set aside time to cook your dinners for the whole week. You will only have to cook once a week, and then you have healthy pre-prepared meals for the next seven days.
Likewise, make sure you don’t study right up until the moment you go to bed because your brain will still be active, resulting in a poorer night’s sleep. Giving your brain time to wind down will result in better quality sleep, making it easier to wake up the next morning and start again as well as preventing burn out.
Third-year Psychology student, Hannah Fletcher, says: “Make sure you get enough sleep as it helps memory consolidation.”
If you’re really struggling, please do seek help and advice. Speak to friends and family realistically about how you’re finding things; get advice from your tutor or a member of staff in your department. You could also speak to a volunteer at Nightline as well as registering for the University Counselling Service.
If you need subject-specific advice, read some Warwick Study Blogs
In these blogs, students from different departments give their tips on various aspects of getting through Term three. You may want to check out ‘Keeping your Cool Amidst Exam Pressure’ and ‘6 Hacks to Stay on Top of your Revision’.