After spending almost 3/4 of my life going through exams after exams, I’ve come to a point where I feel like…
Nah just kidding.
I care about my grades. Maybe too much. Especially since my sole goal in university right now is to get good grades so I wouldn’t have to spend the next how many years of my life trying to pay off my student’s loan.
Apart from the torture and the never-ending stress of exams and studying, I’ve also picked up a few studying tricks. I hereby list down the things that I found useful when I’m studying or cramming for exams.
When I was in school I never listened to music while studying. I find it distracting and I never understand why people would do it. But as I get older and become more comfortable with technology and internet, I finally learn how to search for songs on Youtube. Yayyy. Now I prefer to listen to music while I’m studying. Not just any music though. Try blasting some rap songs while I’m studying and I’ll start throwing glass plates at you. I usually listen to concentration songs or Kenny G. You can find a lot of concentration music on Youtube. They always have beach sounds or flutes. Kenny G’s saxophone songs also work. It kind of make you feel like you’re studying in some hotel lounge. It’s really nice and relaxing. It won’t interfere with your focus and it helps to cancel out any outside noise.
Before I start studying I like to make some drinks, coffee, tea or milo, and put it next to me. Drinking while you are studying, to me, is a good excuse for you stop for a few seconds and digest whatever information you just studied. So I would suggest making any type of drinks before you start studying and just put it next to you. It could be plain water, or iced drinks, or coffee. Anything you prefer.
It is also very important to find a good environment for studying. Cognitive scientists suggest alternating places when you’re studying because your memory is connected to locations and changing places while studying is supposed to increase your memory retention, etc. But I’m a luddite. When I found a spot that I like, I will always study at the exact same spot. So I find it helpful to ‘establish’ a spot. By that I mean find a good spot to study. Find YOUR spot. A place you are comfortable with. Some place quiet or noisy (depends on your preferences). Make sure the lighting and the air ventilation are good. You can make it close to the refrigerator if you want to. I did.
My studying spot is the dining table. It’s spacious. I’ve plenty of space to put my laptop, files, notes, stationery, tea pot and even an additional table fan, because well, why not. So basically from the moment study week starts till the last day of exam, no one is allowed to eat at the dining table. Not that I’m encouraging you to cause any inconvenience to your family, it’s just it is good to have a spot that you can help you be totally focus on studying and won’t be distracted.
4. Flash Cards, Mind Maps & Summarised Notes
I’m sure you’ve heard this before.. But what I am trying to say here that these things really work. And you should totally invest your time doing it. Whether to use flash cards or mind maps or notes, it all depends on the subject itself.
a) If the subject has a lot of terms and definition, then you should use flash cards. I would write the term on one side and the definition or key points on the other. This is useful for studying while you’re out of the house, or driving or while you’re laying down on your bed.
b) If the subject has a lot of concepts, then you can do mind maps. Mind maps are good for reviewing the entire topic in a glance. This is especially useful when you want to flip through all of the topics before entering the exam hall.
c) I usually summarised my notes if the topic is very very long and confusing. This can happen sometimes. Some lecturers would give very confusing notes with the concepts all over the place. And you just kinda have to play puzzle and try to re-organize it. What I usually do is I would divide an A4 paper into two or three parts and write down my notes in a way that makes sense to me.
These pictures are only examples. You can obviously do it in ways you find more effective. And don’t limit the strategies you used for each subject just because I said you should use flash cards for this and mind maps for that, etc. Just do it to your liking. Sometimes I have two or more strategies that I used for one subject. Sometimes I only use flash cards. It is totally up to you and what you find is suitable.
5. Study Group
Never underestimate the power of a study group. Having a study group is very useful. But if you can’t find a group, you can at least find one friend who are interested. And what you can do is divide the chapters for each subject. You can each do notes or mind maps or anything you like for the assigned chapters and exchange the notes. This will make it a lot faster and easier for you to study. It will also make it less stressful as you are not carrying the load of 15 weeks of lecture notes by yourself.
6. Extensive Reading
Do not limit yourself to only the lecture notes. Because 90% of the time they are not enough to help you get through your exam. Lecturers often only include the important terms in the slide and touch on it very briefly. So if you wish to further understand the topics, you will need to do extensive reading. You can either search online or look for books in the library. Doing extensive reading will literally save your life. Not only will it give your more points to talk about in your answers, it will also help you understand and hence remember the topics better. So, do it!
7. Past Year Questions
One of the first thing I always do before I start studying for any paper is to search for past-year questions. You can simply go to your university’s library website and search for it. Sometimes the subject used to be under different codes or names so you really need to search very extensively. Lol.
A lot of people talk about taking breaks while studying. It is indeed very useful. But I don’t set an alarm to take breaks after how many over minutes of studying. I will usually take a break after studying certain amount of chapters. Or when my body or brain desperately need a break. It really depends on you. If your body starts feeling tired or your brain starts showing early signs of madness, then you should rest for a bit. You can do whatever you want while you’re resting. You can go online and reply to your bursting notifications or play games, etc. You can head to the kitchen and stand in front of the refrigerator if you want. That’s what I did. Do whatever you like.
9. Stretch / Exercise
I would recommend stretching your body and neck before you start studying. You are going into battle after all. If you’re into exercising, you can do that too. I never tried that. So be careful not to overwork yourself or you’ll end up tired.
And last but not least, discipline. Discipline is not only important in sports or uniform bodies, etc. It takes a lot of discipline to study. This is a very abstract tips, I know. But I find this tips to be the most important because without discipline, none of the other tips would matter. You have to be disciplined. Don’t give up just because you’re tired or you simply can’t do it anymore. I know it is easy to feel discouraged but once you get over that little obstacle, it will get easier. I promised. You just have to suck it up a lil longer. If you tend to get demotivated, try setting goals for each of your study session. Force yourself to finish certain amount of chapters before you go to sleep, or etc. Just don’t give up.
If not then, I’m sorry you wasted you time reading this.