With Easter little under a month away and the second full semester of the year about to end most students really start thinking about their final exams; however it’s hard to imagine revising for them when you’ve got a dissertation/ 5000 word essay on the deterioration of bone density/ 4 problem sheets to do before you get to finish your lectures. Then there’s the glimmer of a social life you wanted to have while you were back at home/ staying at Uni over the break and that’s not even including any jobs/ other commitments that all you students may have. Now I know three years worth of doing this isn’t that much in the experience world but I have a few small pieces of wisdom that I’d like to pass on, because trust me when I say that I’ve been there, done that and have a fair few of the t-shirts. I’ve spent two weeks of every Easter break (I had three weeks at my Uni) I had at Uni working nearly 40 hours a week, then had to come home and attempt to revise in the evening even though I’m already tired or trying to remember theorems when I’m eating my toast for breakfast. Either way it’s not fun. That was the point I was trying to make anyway.
So, to save me blabbering on I’ll just share a few tips and I’ve added some downloadable calendars for you at the end, told you it was all about passing the torch.
Try and do this before you finish for the break. I used to get myself organised once I’d handed in my final piece of work the week before/ the week I was due to finish for Easter. Sort out all your lecture notes and worksheets and arrange them in chronological order, and if you find you have missed a week now is the time to go hunting for the notes. If they aren’t available online via your University portal then ask a friend or send the lecturer/ your tutor an email requesting any handouts that were offered at the end of the seminar or lecture. The earlier you ask the more willing they will be to provide you with the information you require, when exams are right around the corner there’s a chance that they will be bombarded with students wanting to know things and they may not have the time to send you an email or let you pick up a copy of any sheets.
Another point regarding lecturers, find out their availability over the Easter break. Most Universities are still open except for the Bank Holidays/ the week that involves Easter, so your lecturers will be available either via email or via a drop in session over the break, this is the time for you to ask questions or ask for help if you don’t understand a certain topic/ method or theory. Like I said the second you get closer to your exams the professors come under a lot of stress, they have earlier exams to mark, final assignments to check over, never mind their own admin and research work too. You’ll thank yourself when you’re not running around attempting to find out what a huge theory is the day before you’re due to sit the exam!
Find a revising technique that suits you
Just because all your friends swear that revising in the evening is easier and more productive that may not work for you too, in fact I couldn’t revise in the evening at all, I found my brain switched off and all I wanted was sleep. Personally I used to treat revision as if it was a work day. I’d start at 9am and work through until 5pm, stopping only for a lunch break where I made sure I got out of the room I’d been revising in for 30 minutes. Again this may not work for you, but I found I was the most productive between these hours and it freed up my evenings to relax/ surf the internet. Also figure out where your best revision spot is. Do you work best in your bedroom? Or would you rather get out of the house completely and sit in the University library or a local coffee shop, again do you listen to music while you revise? I listened to the radio and revised in my dining room but I know people that need music playing in their ears and to be on the floor to really take anything in, it’s just personal preference.
It’s also a good idea to find out how you need to revise to remember information. Do you need to answer past papers in order to get a feel for things or are you someone that reads over the information again and again? Or do you re-write things in different colours in order to remember them? Apparently writing in blue/ a colour that isn’t black ensures the knowledge stays in your brain longer (I don’t know how or why this works but I did use an array of coloured pens in my initial re-writing revision stage and did find the information was easier to remember!)
As I mentioned at the start many of us do have to work during the Easter break, if possible prepare note cards with key pieces of information on them and try and either write down theories and ideas or (in the case of a maths student) try and prove a given theory or statement using the techniques you have been taught over the year. Or if you have a willing work-mate (or a family member if you’re not in work) talk about what you’re doing/learning to that person. Yes there may be a really high chance they have no idea what you’re going on about, but trying to teach then about it could ensure it stays in your head that little bit longer.
Plan Your Time
There’s a very slim chance that you’ll only have one exam to sit (if you are that student then 1. I’m very jealous of you and 2. I probably wouldn’t tell many people that as they all may hate you temporarily) as most students sit something between 2-8 exams in one exam season. Personally I sat 6 exams in my final year (5 in my second and 6 in my first), 5 of which were 3 hours long and were worth 75% of my final module mark with the 6th being 2 hours long and worth 50% of my module mark. Now any amount of exams in 2-3 weeks isn’t easy but I really did struggle with 6 in such quick succession. I had four exams in the space of a week and in that time I had two full days in work to deal with as well. Ouch. I found that setting out a schedule of when I was going to revise each module was the only way I made it through the exam season. I started as early as I could writing out condensed notes on each modules topics and then moved on to sitting past papers that my university made available. I made myself a paper calendar that I recorded what I was going to and when and stuck to it religiously. Now seen as I’m a lovely person and I want to save you all a bit of time I thought I’d include some basic printable calendars here. Each month is A4 sized and has lots of room to sort out appointments with lecturers, deadlines and your revision schedule. Just click the months that you wish to download and bobs your uncle, you’ve got yourself a free planner to stick to your wall/ door/ kitchen cupboards/ your notebooks!
PRINTABLES: MARCH2015 APRIL2015 MAY2015 JUNE2015
If you can do it, book as much time off in work around your exams as you can. Try and get all the days off in between your exams and as many of the weekend days as possible. Your body and your brain will thank you for not overworking it to the point of exhaustion. (This wasn’t an option for me and I genuinely and honestly don’t know how I made it through the period in one piece, with only one slight hysteric crying fit, and lived to see my results). Also email your lecturers and ask for a layout of the exam if you haven’t already be told. Some topics you have been taught wont even be mentioned in the exam and its not worth learning them again for it to be a waste of time. Some wont give you one but may tell you things that aren’t on your paper or give you past papers instead, but some will. At the end of the day your lecturers want you to come out with the highest marks that you can. So don’t be afraid to be a bit cheeky and see what you can get.
Right I think thats all the small pieces of knowledge that I can impart on you all. Forward planning and organisation now will make the next 10-12 weeks so much easier I promise. If you have any other questions leave them in the comments or get in touch with me. I’ll be happy to help in any way I can.