Revising for your exams at University


Every student knows that feelings. Being stuck at your desk and staring at a page that looks like it’s written in a foreign language, and for some of you, it might actually be a different language. You’re praying that you’ll be able to learn it all in time for your exams, but right now it seems like there’s no hope. If you’re lucky enough you’ll know what works best and will be able to soar through your revision sessions. However, if you’re like the rest of us, and have never been under so much pressure, here are some useful tips with revision and surviving exams.

The Do’s

DO learn the whole curriculum

Don’t expect your professors to be like school teachers, you are going to have to make sure you stay on top of your workload and know the whole syllabus. No nudges in the right direction by any teachers here, this is going to be a real test. By a planner, and/or develop a system of keeping track of your assignments, readings, and exams. Ever year you’ll more than likely have a class that nobody understands or a lecturer that isn’t the best at communicating. Exam season is not the time to try and suddenly re-teach yourself everything or simply give up. Make sure you know what you’ve got to cover and plan how you are going to do it. Never be afraid to ask for help too. A friend is very likely to find some stuff easier and other stuff harder than you. So help each other out and you’ll all do great!

DO make an effort with your workspace/desk

Choose your study environment carefully, you’re going to spend a lot of time there, it’s going to be pretty important, and there is no point trying to revise somewhere if you’re going to get distracted. Home can be great if it’s nice and quiet, but if your bed and the TV are going to be too big a distraction then you’re going to need to find somewhere else. If you do study at home, try and keep the area around your desk neat and tidy. If possible, try and find a decent source of light if your window doesn’t offer sun during the day. Be creative! Decorate your room using A3 mind maps, post-it notes or flashcards to motivate you. Also, a little and often is the best way to learn, so by leaving reminders and important points in visible places, you’ll constantly be reinforcing your learning. If you’re heading over to the library and use the services available. A lot of campuses now have study pods, silent rooms, and 24-hour rooms as well. These can be great resources to help you get the work done. If you’re using one of these, you won’t be able to make your desk your own, but do keep it organised and tidy. When you’re feeling daunted by the amount of work you’ve got the last thing you’ll want to face is a desk of endless folders, books, and pages.

DO try and work out which study method works best for you

Find a routine that works best for you and try to stick to it. Some students excel at unusual hours and some are more productive in the morning, while others are easily caught in a procrastination loop after lunch. If you know your shared student house is going to be really loud at certain times, or you find it easier to work at others, then plan around it. Try and take note of times you’ve been especially productive, and keep track of the work you get done. This will help you plan going forward and keep motivated by seeing the progress you’re making. Learning how to use your time productively is a whole world of it’s own and there are so many different working methods that people recommend. One that is popular is to work in 15, 30 or 45-minute intervals with 5 or 15-minute breaks. Start the interval with a clear goal and the task to get it done in the time you’ve set. Then reward yourself with a break when it’s completed.

DO get the help you need

Do seek out assistance if you find yourself struggling. Besides, the professor and your classmates, most colleges have an academic support center that typically offers assistance in learning how to study or with free support for specific classes. Student unions and other services often provide support to help you with time management, note-taking, typing, and tutoring as well. If you are struggling with stress of anxiety, then you can also find many excellent support services such as Nightline and Student Minds. These are services that specialise in supporting students deal with mental health concerns. Often just supporting and getting support from someone else can be a huge help. So try getting a study buddy so you can share notes and help learn together. Remember, tutors and professors are there to help you as well, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them and get the help you need to succeed.

The Dont’s

DON’T get distracted

You’re not superhuman, you’re an undergraduate and will get distracted. Make time for your favorite TV shows, but just try not to make those during study hours. You’ll take longer to study over the noise of someone else’s voice or another person’s TV, so avoid them. Leave your mobile off or at least put it on silent when you’re studying. Being tempted by Youtube, Facebook, Insta or the Snapchats from your mate last night are going to be the hardest. In fact, let’s be honest, it’s impossible not to be distracted by them. That’s why they’re so damn good. But just keep them all in check. You’re gonig to have to get some self-discipline and stop doing the random youtube sessions that last hours. They’ll just have to be 5 mins every couple of hours now. But don’t worry you’ll still see plenty of hilarious panda videos so don’t worry. Try and figure out what get’s you in the zone. It could be a motivational video, a good piece of music, or starting with a favorite subject. Get in the zone and stick there!

DON’T measure yourself against other people

Don’t compare your academic performance to anyone else’s. Each person is different, and comparing yourself to others just sets you up for disappointment or worse failure. Don’t be enticed to have a night off by somebody else when you know it’s going to mess up your study plans for tomorrow or the week. Similarly, don’t get stressed out by someone else who you think is finding it easy and looks like they’re juggling everything without even breaking a sweat. Trust us, they’re not. Set your own goals and know your own limitations. Your mental health is extremely important and it’s easy for it to suffer during exam time which can be very stressful. Hopefully, you will have chosen your degree because you found it interesting or had a passion for the subject. So make the most out of that. In only a few years you won’t even remember what the person next to you got on their finals, but you’ll always remember what you loved about studying.

DON’T sacrifice your sleep/health

There are no pros to missing out on sleep. So don’t skip it and opt for 24-hour study binges before your exams. You’ll end up doing worse and spend the next day fighting off spontaneous sleep rather than doing the best you can. Lack of sleep can have major negative impacts on your memory and ability to cognitively process problems. That is kind of important when you are doing exams, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot by not getting enough sleep. Make sure you are eating properly as well. A symptom of stress can often be over eating or losing appetite. So listen to your body and make sure you recognise the signs of stress. Keeping a healthy diet is an incredibly important way to help keep you energised, motivated and on top of your game for exams. Below are 5 easy snacks that satisfy cravings and can help you keep on the healthy side of exam cramming;

  • Frozen grapes
  • Greek yogurt with frozen fruit or honey
  • Rice cakes with peanut butter
  • Falafel/Peppers/Carrots with hummus
  • Carrot or Sweet Potato fries instead of crisps or chips

Also published on Medium.