Term 4 is that last long haul before you’ll be rewarded with summer break and Christmas – that’s worth getting excited about.
It also means exams, reports and preparing for next year. If you’re in Year 12 with finals coming up, you might be feeling the pressure more than ever. Hopefully you’ve already started revising, but if not don’t stress, there’s still time.
Perhaps you’ve been putting it off because you’re not sure where to start or it just feels completely overwhelming.
If you haven’t already started, now’s the time to knuckle down
Everyone is different, right down to the way that we learn and study.
- Perhaps you’re a visual learner who needs to pictures, images, graphs and diagrams?
- Does recording your notes and listening to them over and over really help? In which case you’re an auditory learner
- Or are you a verbal learner and who retains more when you read material?
Whichever way you learn best, work out what it is, come up with a realistic schedule, then most importantly of all – stick to it.
If your goal is peak productivity, retention, and some of the zen that comes from feeling confident you know your stuff, here’s a few study tips that could help you to get started.
1. Get into your groove
Nope, we don’t mean put down your study notes and dance around your bedroom.
We’re talking about finding the best styles and times for you to study that give the maximum results.
When it comes to revision time, routine is a great way to get the most out of your study sessions without wearing yourself out.
Whether that’s half an hour when you get home from school and then some exercise, followed by another hour and a half in the evening, then do it. If it’s getting up at 5.30am and studying for 2 hours, do it. Work best in your free periods at school in the library? Great, schedule it in at every opportunity. Perhaps you’re a night owl and find that hunkering down for an hour or two in the evening works best for you (just don’t stay up all night and jeopardise your sleep).
Turn your preferred schedule into a habit. You’ll give your body and mind chance to settle into the rhythm and you’ll hopefully find it easier than studying randomly.
2. Focus on one thing at a time
Are you secretly confident that you’re a multi-tasking guru and that a smartphone, tablet, laptop, music and social media going all at once just make you ‘awesome’? You’re not alone, many of us think the same.
In reality though (and there are countless university studies to prove it), we’re actually far less effective when we’re juggling multiple things at once. So turn off social, put your phone in a drawer and focus on the task in hand.
Ideally don’t push yourself to focus for long periods – instead, find your sweet spot. You might study hard for 30 minutes & do something else for 10 – check your phone, listen to some music, get some exercise or have a drink & a snack. Then sit back down and focus for another 30 minutes.
If you’re easily distracted and “forget” to get back to studying you could always set alarms to keep you on track.
If you can study for longer in one period then great, go for it. Find what works for you and helps you focus.
3. Check the syllabus
Think that sounds like a yawn fest? Well the secrets to getting good marks are all right there.
If you understand the syllabus and the expectations for each subject, it will be easier to focus on studying the right things, rather than just studying everything in the subject textbook.
Another advantage is if there’s a gap in your knowledge, you’ll find out now rather in the middle of an exam. It’s a great way to make your study more effective and it will feel a whole lot less overwhelming.
Syllabus = important stuff, textbooks = everything stuff.
Especially if you’re unsure where to start revising, this could help you stuck in and get ahead faster too.
Remember to speak to your teachers, they’ll help you access the right information and make sure that you understand it, they want you to do well.
4. Become a note-taking ninja
If you’re not already an avid note-taker, now is an excellent time to boost this skill.
After checking out the syllabus and getting clear on what’s important, the next step is to make notes in a dedicated study folder. Making notes may seem old-school, but for lots of people the physical action of writing down information can help to cement it in your brain.
Keep that folder with you in all study periods so that you can refer to it and add new notes as you come across them.
It’s a great idea to highlight the important ones. Highlighting is another way to reinforce learning and help retain information. It’ll also help cut down on the volume of information to read through during the rest of your revision time.
Then, before each exam, you can go back through your folder and scan everything you need to know at once.
5. Practising self-care IS a study tool
Sound like mum talking? Sorry – but she does have a point. So looking after your body and your mind might not help you ace exams alone, but just like a top athlete, racing car driver, or brain surgeon – if you’re in top condition, then you’re going to be able to perform at your best.
Staying up late and then drinking heaps of energy drinks and coffee isn’t the way to succeed, no matter how ‘cool’ it might seem.
You need to get back to basics. Sleep (8-10 hours a night). Drink 2L of water a day (at least). Exercise (yeah!). And lastly, eat good food my young Padawan.
6. Practise, practise, practise
The thought of sitting your exams can be daunting for most people, and our bodies have sneaky ways of reacting to stress.
Do you feel nauseous, or have gut churning sensations in the lead up to exams, feel anxious, can’t sleep, have low energy or suffer with headaches? Or do you feel fine up until you sit down and turn over the paper then freeze and panic you have forgotten everything?
They’re completely normal reactions (thanks biology). So, how can you feel better about going into exams and make sure that all your hard work pays off when you start writing?
The simplest way is practise.
Doing things repetitively not only helps us learn, it also gives us confidence and can help combat those pesky stress symptoms.
Find some practise exams online, or ask your teachers to provide you with previous years exams, and incorporate answering them as part of your revision strategy.
Once you’ve done a few you’ll start to feel more comfortable and you could even introduce time limits, just like in a real exam scenario.
Familiarity with the kinds of questions you might get asked and the layout of the exams will set you up for success.
7. Check off some goals
Staying motivated through a gruelling schedule of school, study and sleep is hard.
Having something rewarding to look forward to can make it heaps easier to stay on track through the months ahead.
For some, it’s the school formal or Schoolies (stay safe, OK?). And for others, it’s a gap-year exploring new horizons with just a backpack. Whatever it is for you, make sure it’s something that you really want and can keep focused on.
Long term goals should be the ultimate reward, but consider setting some short term goals too. For example, if you stick to your study schedule all week then how about a trip to the movies or just hang out with friends at the weekend? It could even be a little treat at the end of a study session before you hit the hay (and even though you’re looking after yourself, it doesn’t always have to be healthy).
8. Every little bit counts
If you lead a super busy life and you’re struggling to schedule in big study sessions every day, don’t be discouraged. Doing a little each day adds up to a whole heap at the end.
Conversely, if you don’t study every day, the little study periods you missed will add up to a lot you haven’t done.
You’re in charge here – which option will you go for?
9. Have faith in yourself
You’ve got this! Get your revision schedule organised and get going.
You’ve been at school for 12 years – it’s been an intensive learning curve and you’re almost at the end. Just one more hurdle to go and you’re off into the world to do your thing.
You’ve done heaps of exams before right? And you’re OK – you’ll be OK after these ones too.
All in all – HSC or end of year exams DO mean a lot for your future. But they’re not the ‘be-all and end-all’.
Plenty of famous and amazing people who’ve greatly succeeded in life totally sucked at school and especially at exams. And even if you do fail, you can always go and do it again. So just chill, focus, and do the best you can.
But if you can ‘kick-ass’ at this the first time around by following the tips above, you’ll be really thankful you did.