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The Ultimate Student Guide to Surviving Exam Time

Sakhita Sharma

This post is also available in: Italian German French

One last push. That’s all you need to finally reach the summer holidays. Whether you’re visiting the best student cities in Europe, going on an Interrail trip, or hopping on a plane to somewhere this summer, you still have an entire exam period ahead of you. While we may not be able to offer you a two-month supply of Red Bull, we have put together the ultimate Student Guide to surviving exam time!

First things first, it’s time to remember your boy scout training: always be prepared! That’s right, before you do anything else, check through the list below to ensure that you’re thoroughly prepared and ready to sit it. If you answer no to anything, adapt your current behaviour to ensure that you can answer yes.

Pre-university Exam Preparation Checklist

  1. Do you know where to find your exam timetable online?
  2. Have you made a revision plan for the weeks leading up to your exams?
  3. Do you know where the exam room is?
  4. Do you have a few past exam papers or questions to review?
  5. Have you prepared all the resources, materials and stationary you need and are allowed to take with you to the exam?
  6. Are you aware of the formats of your exams such as multiple choice, open book or regular?
  7. Have you stocked up on lots of fruit and vegetables for those stress-induced snack binges?
  8. Have you started to regulate your sleeping patterns to ensure you get a good night’s sleep?
  9. Are you keeping well hydrated?
  10. Have you factored in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day between your revision periods?

While many of these points may seem tedious, preparation is the key to university exam success. Knowing which strategies to apply to which examination formats helps reduce time wastage, affording you greater opportunities to answer each question to the best of your ability, while great mental and physical health directly affect your alertness and help channel your focus. Make sure you’ve made yourself a priority, and you’re already on your way to performing at your optimum capacity!

5 Foolproof Exam Tips You Can’t Afford To Miss

Now that you have your checklist, here are a few foolproof tips and tricks to help you ace those assessments:

1. Spread out your revision

Committing something to memory takes time. Research has shown that spreading out revision sessions on a particular topic is more effective than spending the same amount of time in one go. This is known as spacing because it allows for time in between studying to forget and re-learn material. Short spells of approximately 20-30 minutes work the best because your concentration is much higher.

2. Exercise

Even by going for a small 30-minute jog in between study sessions can make a huge difference to your well-being. In a previous article on tips to help you study more effectively, we highlighted that going outside to get fresh air is essential for better revision, as not only has it been scientifically proven to help you feel more refreshed, heighten focus and attention to detail afterwards, but by reducing anxiety and raising self-esteem, it helps you deal better with stressful situations. It’s nature’s Xanax with a side effect of toned abs, buttocks and legs, so we’ll make ours a double helping.

3. KISS

Sadly not a nod to saliva swopping or head banging, KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. Research by the clever folks at Stanford University has shown that doing too many things at the same time makes us less productive and focused. So if you want to check your social media accounts or grab a quick bite to eat, leave the books for half an hour and enjoy 30 minutes of swiping left or right, scrolling through a stream of memes and GIFs, or whip up a nutritious snack.

If your mind is drifting and worried about other things, you’ll spend more time frustrated and fighting with yourself to study. The lack of results from this method will mean that you will become even more stressed and less focused, leading to an unproductive and unmotivated spiral of exam doom.

4. Do plenty of past papers

You’ve heard it plenty of times before, but it’s still as true as it always has been: practice makes perfect. Many exam boards put a lot of emphasis on exam technique, so often simply familiarising yourself with the format before the exam can help save time and earn you extra marks.

While the questions may not be the same as the previous years, some examiners do get a little lazy, so you may get lucky with similar questions popping up.

Another great strategy is to look through your semester’s seminar and lecture topics, highlight the questions they address, and write out an answer to each of these under exam conditions. Practice these over and over to test your recall of knowledge and prepare answers for some or all of the questions you predict.

5. Variety is the spice of life

As we mentioned in our previous article about university exam tips, our brains can be stimulated by a variety of methods, and so successful studying techniques involve mixing up a variety of different tactics such as reading through revision notes today, checking the same topic online tomorrow, and meeting friends to discuss the topic the day after.

For those prone to procrastination, we have our very own procrastination roulette wheel for you to have a spin on… See, we’re not all bad.

Now, good luck and God speed! It might not feel like it, but exam hell will be over soon… and the cocktails won’t be sipping themselves when it does.


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Got a great study tip? Leave us a comment and let us know your tips and tricks for surviving exam time. And remember: if you need student accommodation in Europe, you’ll find the student home you’re looking for on Uniplaces.

This post is also available in: Italian German French

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