Exam preparation is just one of those things that’s always stressful. No matter how much time you’ve given yourself, you rarely think you’ve studied enough. You always think there’s more you could have done and it’s never a calm lead up.
It’s even worse when you’re a bit of a dud like me and haven’t given yourself enough time to cover all the content in detail and the exam date starts to loom over you like a bad stank.
Over the years I’ve had to figure out some ways to get my shit together in limited time and have gotten quite good at it, but instead of giving you a lot of little things you can do to help study, this advice comprises of three general rules I try to abide by.
You have to look at how much time you’ve got until the exam, how much content you have to study, and how much time you’re likely to spend actually studying. I often find I have fuck all time left, a fuck off amount to study, and fuckin’ heaps I’d rather be doing in my spare time.
This is why it’s important to set a realistic goal in terms of your study, and not expect to write pages of notes for every syllabus point if it’s the night before your exam. If you do set out with loftier goals than you’re able to achieve, you can get really bogged down in the early chapters of a subject and not make it to the end of the content before the exam.
Your goal should at least be to have a general understanding of all the content rather than specific knowledge on just a few areas. This way you’ll be able to score at least a few marks for every question rather than answering one or two really well and skipping the rest.
Setting your own study goals to achieve this can look different depending on where you are in crunch time. There have been times when I’ve still been making my own study notes right before an exam and realised I wasn’t going to finish them in time, so I just read through my friend’s notes and the textbook, learning that way instead. Other times I had already finished my notes and wanted to rewrite them a few times, as well as doing a few practice papers. However, I realised I had to scale it back due to time constraints and ended up just reading through and highlighting my notes.
Basically, you may not get through all the study you want, but you can use your limited time to do the things that will actually help you during the exam.
All the study in the world doesn’t mean shit if you show up to your exam looking like a zombie. You won’t be able access any of that information you’ve been poring over, nor will you be able to string together coherent thoughts and form them into sentences. Even if you do need to stay up extra late to get through all the content, you need to know when to call it quits and get enough sleep to keep you sharp on exam day.
This goes for the lead up to the exam when you’re getting your study on, too; you want to make sure your mind is fresh and actually taking in that information.
This is something that your teachers might already be telling you, and one of those times that they’re actually right. The syllabus outline is your goddamn bible, and you need to base all your study around it. Exams cannot test you on any content outside of the syllabus and knowing all the syllabus points will give you that general understanding of the entire course that you need.
When making your study notes, you should structure them how the syllabus is structured. When you find yourself with only 20 minutes to get some last-minute study done, you should just read the syllabus. Heck, when you find yourself moments away from the end of an exam and still have a question to answer, you should just write down the relevant syllabus points and you’ll still get some marks.
We get it, exams are the fucking worst–especially when you walk in and realise that you know fuck all. But, take our advice and just remember in the long run that your exams are just a tiny part of your entire life and if you flunk a couple you’ll still turn out just fine.