According to WikiHow, “Exams are a terrible and stressful thing to study for, especially knowing that they can make or break your final mark.” That is a wonderful piece of sage advice, one that could be emblazoned on a sign over the door of every classroom in every school. It also serves to create a feeling of the-clock-is-ticking anxiety in anyone who has ever had to prepare for an important test.
No matter whether you are a full time student in school or a part time learner with a full-time job, if you’re continuing your education then you likely have had to learn how to effectively manage your time with regard to turning in assignments on time and studying for exams. It simply cannot be stated in enough ways – your time is very valuable, very limited and therefore it must be used effectively and maximized for efficiency. With only so much time at your disposal when you have an exam approaching, it is important to understand some basic concepts with regard to studying that can help you shorten your prep time as well as relieve your stress level surrounding the exam itself.
Studying and preparing for exams is never something most of us look forward to. The exam date looms on the horizon like an approaching thunderstorm, and as the date gets closer and closer your stress level or anxiety will likely increase accordingly. While there is always going to be a certain amount of stress involved in preparing for an exam, one effective way to lessen your pre-exam stress levels is to build, maintain and utilize effective studying methods and techniques. With effective studying techniques you can instill confidence in yourself, you’ll feel prepared and you’ll be ready to take your exam with a minimum of worry. Confidence breeds success, as the saying goes, and learning to improve your studying techniques will increase your chances of passing, which in turn will boost your confidence and lead to further exams and test success.
Studying and retaining what you’ve studied are not difficult concepts to grasp. But there is more to successful studying than simply cracking open the books and sitting and reading endlessly for hours on end (that would only serve to give you a blazing headache and poor posture!). The most effective thing you can do to improve studying is to manage your time efficiently and make smart decisions. Much of the anxiety and worry associated with exams is usually because the student does not manage their time wisely, this in turn leads to a scenario where the studying is neglected or crammed into an otherwise already busy schedule. If the studying is not given full priority and attention, the ability to take the test and pass it is compromised.
So, how can you effectively manage your time and how in turn can this result in more effective studying?
The first step is crucial – when you know you’ve got an exam in the near future, look at your personal schedule and what it entails until the exam date. Find the correct time to study, mark those times on your calendar and stick to them. This seems simple enough, but for most people this step will require some careful planning. However, executing this first step will also eliminate cramming and cramming is one of the most counter effective methods of study you could ever employ, it simply doesn’t work. Plan to study when you’re going to be alert – avoid evenings and after work whenever possible – and don’t schedule yourself for hours and hours, your goal should be to retain information, not to study until your eyes burn. Study for a couple hours at a time and you’ll retain the information much easier.
The second thing is to understand the subjects you need to prepare for – you wouldn’t read your math textbooks over and over to effectively study for an algebra exam, would you? No, you’d likely take the examples your professor or teacher has provided, any quizzes you’ve had marked, and some examples from your textbooks and go over them repeatedly. Working out problems and understanding how and when to apply formulas will burn them into your mind and thus, make them easier to solve on an exam. If your exam is going to deal with facts and history or social issues and writing, make sure you’re reading everything that will be pertinent to the subject of the test – know what you’re going to be talking or writing about.
Make sure that when you’re studying that your distractions are limited – no TV’s in the background, no loud music, and stay away from your computer or laptop as they are basically gateways to distraction. If you do need your laptop or tablet close by (and you very well might if you’ve got notes or documents, etc that are part of your study materials), exercise some self restraint and don’t open your internet connection. Your Facebook friends don’t need updates on your studying! Ensure you’ve got an uncluttered room, a comfortable place to sit, and adequate lighting (your eyes will strain in dim light). And by all means, take a break from time to time. Get up, stretch, go outside and get some fresh air, etc. “Take five” as the saying goes, and refresh your mind by giving yourself a mental breather.
Good study skills aren’t exclusive too being in school or taking tests, the disciplines and methods you establish will be invaluable throughout life and in many other applications. When you learn and apply effective studying techniques and methods you’ll end up with more free time – something we can all use more of in our busy lives. Learn to learn efficiently, study your studying, manage you time intelligently and your exams will cease to be the anxiety inducing roadblocks we make them and will instead become stepping stones to self confidence and ultimately, success.