Revising for your exams at university
Every student hits that time of year where they’ve got to put the booze away, sit down and do work, and it sucks. If you’re lucky enough, you know how you work best and will be able to soar through your revision sessions. However, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine – most of us have never been under so much pressure as we’ve never had work that contributes to a degree before. From the advice and horror stories of a few fellow students, here are the best ways to work without messing yourself up even more.
DO learn the whole curriculum
If you’re capable of completing a full degree course, you’ll gain nothing from only learning the bits you enjoy. There’s never going to be a time at university where you’re fully confident with every module – every year you’ll more than likely have a class that nobody understands, or a lecturer that doesn’t communicate well enough with the class. Exam season is not a time to compromise and choose what you like as more than often a difficult topic is deliberately included on a paper. This is to really see which students can do the work and suss out those that didn’t really bother. There’s nothing wrong with trying especially hard for a topic you enjoy, but you must realise your exam paper isn’t going to be suited around what you find interesting. Drag yourself through the boring parts too and you’ll be thanking yourself on results day.
DO make an effort with your bedroom
There’s no point in trying to revise by yourself in halls (or your student house) if all you can see is a collection of your favourite DVDs and a comfy bed. Don’t let it entice you – anybody that ever tries to work in their bed either falls asleep or gives up. Make sure your room doesn’t just offer dull lamp light, find a decent source of light if your window doesn’t offer some Sun during the day. You’ll need a good collection of stationery as well as your relevant course materials and notes. You may also want to invest in A3 paper for mind maps, post-it notes or flashcards – make your room reflect who you want to be during exam season. And if that’s not enough then take yourself over to the library, you’ll find a limited amount of distractions there.
DO try and work out when you work best
Some students genuinely excel at unusual hours, some students are more productive early in the morning, some of you are stuck in the procrastination loop. If you know that your housemates are going out and the kitchen/lounge of your house will be loud, then avoid that room. It varies person to person, but just take a note of times you’ve been especially productive, what you did before that that may have helped (going to the gym), and any break you took that particularly refreshed your brain. If you’ve worked out how to utilise your time to learn the most, then make a routine! For example, working an hour every day after lectures and then allowing yourself a nap/a chilled out break. This is way more effective than trying to motivate yourself when you’re knackered or just want to sit down and do nothing.
DO get the help you need
It’s not embarrassing at all to be asking more questions than you did before exam period. Don’t let the fact you don’t know something hinder you; that particular reading you can’t get your head around may be the very topic of your essay question. Some degrees aren’t just about memorisation, you must genuinely understand what’s going on to apply it. Lecturers and tutors are there to make sure you’re confident about what you’ve been taught, so don’t be afraid to hassle someone to get the answer you need. You might even want to start a subject group chat, some people are bound to want to show off a little and will give you answers you may need. Or perhaps find some of your course mates and exchange notes. Sometimes, different people’s revision comes off in a different tone from your perspective and can be just what you need to write a persuasive argument or appreciate what you’re learning about.
DON’T get distracted
You’re not superhuman, you’re an undergraduate and you will get distracted. Make time for the TV show you need to catch up on or the radio talk show, but not in your work hours. You’ll take longer to revise if you’re trying to think over someone else’s voice blaring out of your speakers. You might also find yourself in the same spot two hours later with nothing to show for yourself except an extensive knowledge of episodes of The Office. Even background music can make you lose focus, but many students benefit from music as long as it’s instrumental or something they’ve never heard before. Lock your door and tell people you’re revising – start revision off with a cup of tea or glass of water so you’re not pulled into the kitchen by conversation. Post-it notes come in handy here as whenever your vision starts wandering elsewhere, you’ve got reminders of what you’re in your room to do.
DON’T measure yourself against other people
There’s a more than likely chance that you’ll know people who work all day and all night to lrevise, and others that you’re pretty sure have never been to a lecture. They have their own academic standards and you have yours – don’t be enticed to have a night off by somebody who never really needs to work. Similarly, don’t get yourself worked up into stress by someone else who never sleeps. Set your own goals, even if it’s just finishing one reading for the day, you know your own limitations.Try not to worry if a friend of yours ends up getting a higher grade in something you’re confident with, or getting marked closely to someone who never tries. People choose their degree because they love it (unless they got awfully confused at A Levels but are too committed to back out now) so make the most of it, as it’s your money and your time. In ten years, nobody is going to care what the person sitting next to them got.
DON’T sacrifice your sleep
It’s been proven that students who don’t sleep much have problems memorising things, so you may find your grades will thank you for taking that extra hour in bed. There’s really no pro’s to missing out on sleep, as you’ll spend the day waiting for your next nap and not be able to focus on what needs to be done at all. Starting the day off well-rested and fresh is the best way to motivate yourself. Make a big breakfast with a large mug of coffee and sit down with all your work ready. Exam seasons can be stressful times that can sometimes result in being awake constantly, but there’s no point worrying yourself into working hours where your body is ready to drop.