Remember how you could hear your heart thumping away? All senses going numb to any reason or logic? The pulse galloping away at rates no doctor would ever accept. All memories fade faster than it takes to ‘disapparate”? Your stomach doing the dervish turns? There’s plenty more that happened and it still happens. Exams! That’s the one word that can strike fear even in the hearts of the well-prepared brave hearts. No amount of preparation seems to be ever enough. Preparing for exams feels like a hamster on a wheel; it goes on and on and on and on….
Treat the exam fear like the boggarts in Harry Potter. It can be easily dealt with. Just thinking happy thoughts may not do the trick but yes, it’s not that difficult to deal with. All it needs is a little bit of preparation (once again!) and planning. I’ve listed out 12 ways for preparing effectively for exams – how to prepare and revise, and also things to do during the exams. Take a peek.
1. Prepare a revision schedule
There’s no point in just studying mindlessly without a clear-cut goal. Once you’ve finished with the portion, you need to make time to revise. Spend a few minutes preparing a proper revision schedule. Allot time for each subject, depending on the difficulty level or quantum of portion to study. Make a list of the lessons that need to be covered and then allot appropriate time slots for each of them. Distribute the revision over several days or weeks. Let the first round of revision take the maximum time; the subsequent revisions will be faster. Also, cater for practising past test papers in the schedule. Use this simple study planner to start off.
2. Plan your day
First things first. Take a few moments to plan your day. Look at the revision schedule and decide how you are going to go about it. Since you’ve already allotted the time, you can plan the rest of the day as per that. Allot some time for breaks and exercise. If you’re at home, then try having dinner with the family. Planning your day will enable you to optimally use your time and keep you from getting stressed about ‘what to do’ and ‘where to begin’. The key to success is to work smartly. Planning your work is the first step.
3. Decide your revision method
Each student has a different strategy for exam preparation. Some students prefer to write and revise, while some like to make small notes while revising, highlighting the important points. Either way, keep the things you need ready before you start to prevent avoidable distractions. Sheets of rough work, notepads, pens, pencils, etc. etc., everything should be there on the table before you start off. Some students prefer music when studying. That’s a good stress buster. But remember there will be no music when you’re giving the exam so better practice studying without it.
4. Make personalised notes
Notes are the backbone of any revision. Prepare notes instead of solely depending on what the teacher has given you. Make a flowchart or mindmap or whatever helps you to understand the concept better. Write down the important points. You can further review and refine them during your next round of revision. These notes will work as a ready reckoner when you need a quick recap before the exams. So, prepare them carefully.
5. Focus on understanding and not cramming
Sounds silly but this is often brushed over. An important tip for preparing for exams – don’t just cram the definitions or descriptions. Put in the effort to understand them and write them in your own words to ensure good understanding. The objective of the revision is to understand the concepts in the lessons. Write down all the doubts or problems and then seek assistance. No need for panic attacks when you see something you don’t understand. Remember, that’s why you’re revising. You can try using mnemonics to remember things in a fun way.
6. Go through past test papers
After round one of the revisions, don’t forget to go through the old test papers. They are a goldmine of information about the type of questions. This enables you to prepare the concepts from the exam perspective. Also, it will give you a chance to test your preparation for the exams. You’ll be able to find out what you have missed or needs more attention. Ask any topper and (if they’re ready to share their secret to success) they’ll tell you that they put in many hours of practice. That’s the secret weapon, their success mantra – the more you practice, the better you will get because, with every practice your comprehension gets better.
7. Review your notes
You have made notes for yourself when revising the concepts in the lesson. Make it a habit to revise and review these notes regularly. Since you’ve made the notes for yourself, you’ve understood it and that will enable you to recapitulate faster. Repeated revisions will help you memorise it better without cramming. You can add more information to the notes with each revision. Reviewing your notes and going through the old test papers will help you to identify the problem areas, the mistakes you’re making and enable you to work towards correcting them. Improving your mistakes makes the revision process fruitful.
8. Take a break
Preparing for the exams is like preparing for a marathon. It can’t happen in a day and it can’t happen by just studying for hours at a stretch. Study in spurts. Take a break at regular intervals. Have a light snack or do some stretching or walk around. Avoid picking up that phone or TV remote. Those can really disrupt your schedule! The break is for your mind to get a breather.
9. Need for physical activity
Yes, it’s exam time and there’s no time to waste. But doing some form of physical activity is equally important (I’m sure you’ve read all about it and know what I’m talking about). Make exercising a part of your study schedule. Go for a small run or walk around the park or neighbourhood. Do some stretching or take up yoga. Any form of exercise does you more good than you can imagine. The long hours of sitting at the study table can adversely affect your back and posture and cause other health issues like sleeping difficulties, indigestion, headaches, and endless other problems. So, get up and get moving. It will refresh and rejuvenate your exhausted brain cells.
10. Make study groups
Nothing like the buddy system for support. You could either team up with one of your friends or form a study group. But remember the primary reason for coming together is to prepare for the exams, so don’t get distracted by the company. It helps to have someone to discuss the topics with. You can share notes, past papers, resources, and other study materials with each other. Also, you’ll have someone to ask doubts to.
11. Time management
The success of your efforts depends not only on your studying and revising well but also on time management. Plan your day, plan your revision schedule, cater for other activities. You have a life beyond your books and you have to live it. A little bit of planning will help you to meet all your targets. Managing your time is the first thing you need to focus on. If you need good results, learn to manage your time and then it will be a smooth ride. Use a planner to organise yourself and try to follow it through.
12. Create a calm study corner for yourself
Before you start with anything, first make sure you have a quiet place for yourself to study. This is the primary requirement for you to be able to focus on your work and use your time productively. Create space on the study table for the books you will need. You should have enough space to be able to write. Clear the clutter on the table though I know most of the kids thrive in cluttered spaces (I guess they find some comfort in the madness). At least keep the books and stationery you need within sight and within reach, so you don’t spend time searching for them.
Now, Dealing with the Exams
We have done our studying, revising, practising, and gone through tomes of resources. Done. And now it’s exam time. This is the time we’ve been preparing for. And now that it’s here, it seems formidable. Take a deep breath and relax. Your panic will cause more damage than you know. So how do we deal with the exam days?
1. Prepare well ahead
The night before, pack what you need for the exam. ID card, hall ticket, pens/pencils (keep a few extra in case one doesn’t work), and water bottle (preferably transparent since the exam centres can get finicky about those too). Avoid carrying books or notes. No point revising till the last minute, if you haven’t done it yet then there’s no point doing it now. Make sure you know the location of your exam centre. Leave early to avoid traffic problems and try to reach a few minutes early.
2. Use the reading time properly
Once you get the question paper, go through it carefully. Check for any errors like spelling or misprints or wrong questions. Ask the doubts or queries before the writing time begins. Plan your strategy – which section will you attempt first, how many questions are you confident of and how many need more time, then allot time for each section so you aren’t rushing towards the end.
3. What’s done, is done!
You’ve written the exams and submitted the papers. It’s all done. So, no point fretting about it now. You can do a quick check with your friends but don’t spend too much time going over each question. It can affect how you prepare for other exams. Move on to the next exam and focus on that.
I know it sounds cliched when I say don’t worry, it’s ok. But honestly, remember it’s just an exam, not a life-or-death situation (though some students and their parents treat them like that). Exams are meant to assess only your academic proficiency; it doesn’t grade you as a person. Don’t let the grades define you. What’s important is YOU. Believe in yourself and keep working towards your goals. Life is a beautiful journey. Prepare yourself to enjoy it.
And all the best in preparing for your exams!