After my finals ended just a few weeks ago, you’d think exams would be the last thing on my mind. But study hacks are surprisingly fun to put together! The following tips are ones that I came up with throughout my own course of revision and have helped me a great deal, so I hope they do the same for you!
1. Write in felt-tips/fine-liners
To make sure you don’t get bored while making your revision notes, use writing instruments other than pens and pencils. Not only does this introduce an element of fun to your studies, it’ll also be easier to colour-code your notes. The smooth feel of felt-tips and fine-liners on paper is an added bonus.
2. Change your handwriting
Or, more specifically, don’t feel pressured to write a certain way. Some schools require you to write only in cursive or only in print/block letters but when you’re making your own notes at home, feel free to write however you want. Maybe you could write definitions of important words in a certain font and titles and subtitles in another. Personally, I think it is somewhat freeing to be able to write like that because, during lessons, I hardly had time to think about presentation; my notes were rushed and sometimes even illegible to myself.
3. Write in big books
Weirdly, I find writing revision notes more fun and I study for longer when I write in bigger notebooks as opposed to smaller, notepad-style ones. I think it’s because more things fit onto one sheet, and I don’t have to flip pages as much. In addition, when you have written the notes for a single chapter onto just a couple of pages, you can get a better general idea of what is being written. Mind maps and detailed diagrams can also be added.
4. Practise topical questions
The best way to test yourself after having revised a certain topic is to do topical questions. These are, quite simply, questions that are arranged according to topic. You might be able to find these online, or you could get a bunch of question papers and only answer questions regarding the topic you’re concerned with. I also like to use topical questions when I finish a complete question paper; I go back and check the answers, write down the names of the topics I need more help with and, finally, do around 5 to 10 questions from each of those topics.
5. Change the way you answer questions
Answering a question paper under timed conditions is a great way to check whether you know how to apply your knowledge in different situations, but it can get quite tiring and boring, especially if you plan to complete multiple papers a day. A solution for this would be to do it in chunks. Let’s say you aim to finish three papers a day. You could do the first paper completely and then check the answers. For the second paper, you could answer one question, check the answer, then answer the next question, check the answer and so on. Finally, the third paper could be completed part by part; if a particular question has sub-questions, answer one sub-question, check the answer, and you know the drill.
An advantage of doing papers question by question, or sub-question by sub-question, is that the workings are still fresh in your mind; you know how or why you got the answer you got. On the contrary, if you have completed an entire paper – especially a lengthy one – and have come back to the first question, for example, you might need some time to get into the mindset that you were in when you were attempting to answer that question.
6. Start off with something you hate
If you have a whole day of revision ahead of you, try starting with a subject you don’t particularly enjoy or a topic you are having difficulty with. It might seem daunting and you may take some time to get started, but once it’s out of the way, you’ll feel much better!
7. Take power naps
When you think your brain is absolutely saturated but you still have a lot more revision left, set a timer (15 – 20 minutes should be just right), and take a nap! Of course, it may be hard to fall asleep within such a short period of time, so I like to take these naps only when I’m on the brink of dozing off. This way, I can easily get some shut-eye and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle some more revision.
8. Get your heart rate up
Another way to take a break from studies – especially if you have been seated for a long time – is to exercise. A simple 5 – 10 minute session can wake you up and burn a few calories.
9. Write down model answers
‘Model answers’ were my Maths teacher’s idea to get her students to learn from the mistakes they made during tests. After every test, we had to write down the answers to questions that we answered wrong ( along with the question ) on separate sheets of paper in detail and then hand it in to her. This is a great way to improve your performance in all subjects.
Alternatively, you could have a notebook solely for your model answers. Every time you get back a marked question paper, check your answers and make corrections in your notebook as described above.
10. Search for words/phrases using Google Books
Sometimes, when I have to revisit a certain concept or look up a certain phrase in my textbook, I feel reluctant simply because of the thought of having to flip through so many pages to find what I want – especially during the finals when anything from anywhere in the textbook could appear in a question. To solve this, you can search for a particular phrase or a word related to a particular topic in Google Books. You get instant results and you don’t have to waste time going through the whole book. All you have to do is type up the phrase or word in the ‘Search Inside’ search bar!
11. ‘Last-minute’ revision notes
This tip is probably the one that helped me the most. As the name suggests, these are notes that you make when exams are right around the corner. They shouldn’t be too long or detailed (in fact, I wrote mine in a tiny notebook) and, instead, should contain things like phrases that you often forget to include in your answers or tips for tackling certain types of questions. For example, one of my ‘last-minute’ notes went something like ‘Remember to use 10 m/s as the value for the acceleration of free fall in Mechanics and to use 9.81 m/s in Physics.’
Before entering the exam hall, I would skim through these notes so I could tie up any loose ends and be all the more prepared.
So, there you go! 11 tips to help you revise effectively and ace those exams!