I’m writing this at the start of January, meaning that we have 2 weeks until our semester one exams. Admittedly, I am behind on lectures after a hectic winter period of coursework deadlines. Exam season can be stressful, but if you’re prepared, you’ll come out of it with relief that you don’t have to study that maths module that everyone hates.
There are a couple of things to consider to minimise your stress levels during exams. Of course, everyone has their own way of getting through them, and hopefully, some of these tips will work for you.
Time can either be your best friend or your worst enemy during exams. A big issue with exam prep is that most students will likely be behind on lectures after working on assignments. The bravest of you will start revision without having covered the lectures (a bold move), but if you’re not that way inclined, how do you cover a semester’s worth of content in a week or two?
I’d say the best way to do this is to prioritise. Some people revise in the order of their exam modules, and others do the reverse (i.e. start revising for their last exam). The most important point here is to make sure you’re able to stick to a prioritisation method and work through it.
There’s no point in revising hard for your easiest module and then winging the harder ones. The sensible thing would be to cover all your content but prioritise spending more time on the bits you find more tricky.
Another tip I found useful through my revision sessions is to look at goals, rather than hours. For example, I find saying “I will complete 5 lectures of this module” rather than “I will spend 5 hours on this module” to be much more beneficial. You can get through 3 lectures in 5 hours and call it a day, but getting through 5 lectures in the same time is much more productive. Setting realistic goals of what work you want to get done aids revision better than watching the clock.
As tempting as it is to live off instant ramen for the week of exams, you’ll be grumpy at the end of it. There’s little to no nutritional value in Pot Noodle, and how else do you expect your brain to work well without nutrition?
For cheap, quick, and nutritious meals, why not make fruity oatmeal for breakfast, a chicken/veggie sandwich for lunch and a stir-fry for dinner? Just try and eat filling meals packed with protein and veg – otherwise, your brain will eventually shut down, which isn’t great when you’re trying to solve that seemingly impossible final question on the exam.
If you’ve got some spare time, or are more on the sporty side, why not get some exercise in? It’s a great way to let some steam off and improve brain function. All the additional blood flowing to your brain will increase your concentration and memory retention. It doesn’t have to be something strenuous – even a quick jog or brisk walk will be just fine.
A controversial one here – some students state that all-nighters are their claim to fame, and others can’t function without at least a couple of hours of sleep at night. Copious amounts of caffeine (shout out to the Pret subscription) may seem like a good idea, but the crash at the end of it all is hell. It’s a known fact that our bodies function optimally with at least 7-9 hours of sleep, and the student demographic is notorious for barely meeting this.
If you’re extremely behind on revision, maybe late nights and all-nighters are allowable the week before exams. But do not do this during the week of your actual exams! I can’t stress enough how important a good night’s sleep is before the day of your exam.
You’ll be able to retain information better, your memory is sharper, and your brain won’t be foggy. You really don’t want to spend a good amount of time on exam prep only to let your sleep deprivation ruin your grade.
I recall someone in my year missing an exam as he accidentally noted down the wrong date of the exam. This is an unfortunate mistake that can be easily avoided. The University usually releases the exam timetable sometime in the middle of the semester, so keep an eye out for that.
When the timetable is released, make a note of your exam dates (and which modules they are on) everywhere – Google calendar, your iPhone calendar, in your diary, on a piece of paper blu-tacked to the wall. Also note their duration, and how they will be taken (online or written). Being prepared and knowing the details of your exams will save you an extra headache when it comes to the week of, and you’ll be glad you won’t be part of the panic parade in your course group chat.
Exam season can be the toughest week or two of the year, but as long as you’re prepared, there’s not a lot to worry about! Just stay healthy, get some sleep, and know your schedule. Most importantly, take care of yourself. An exam is never more important than your own well-being.