So, the countdown is well and truly on with only a few short weeks left until the official start of the exams. Let’s look on the bright side, the end is near and freedom for the Summer months is just a stone throw away. There is light at the end of the tunnel!
I am no stranger to the dreaded exam season having done my Leaving Cert in 2014 and completing my Bachelor of Business Honours degree just last year. Throughout these years the exam layout, questions and marking schemes varied and changed however, my preparation for the exams remained consistent. I got into “Exam Mode” and was well prepared for the weeks leading up to the exams. Now I’m here today to pass these tips and tricks on to today’s student’s.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the least/most studious person, as cool as a cucumber or stressed out these next few tips will definitely put you at the top of your game before, during and after the exam.
This seems like the obvious one here and we all have different methods of studying. Some people read books and notes from cover to cover, others prefer to record themselves and listen back again and again and some people have to rewrite the course content into their own words. Whichever category you fall into make sure you are prepared. Gather all your notes, get your flashcards written, record your audio notes or whatever it is you have to do to understand the material. Just make sure its ready and at your disposal when you begin to study.
It’s important to remember that everyone studies differently and its completely dependant on your individual situation and circumstances. For my Leaving Cert I studied for consecutive hours and hours on end and once I got to college I just couldn’t find myself capable of doing it. So, instead I studied for a certain time period, tested myself, took a short break, and then went back at it and repeat.
Feel free to take a break from study. We’re human after all, not robots. Take an hour off or even a full day at the weekend to spend with friends, but don’t let that day turn into a week. If you take a break from study make sure to get back at it. If you have a study schedule pencil in some days to relax and recharge the batteries.
Now, moving away from the study element, the following points are just as important (if not more so) when it comes to being exam ready. Think of yourself as a car preparing for a long road trip. What do you need to do to prepare the car for the journey? Well, obviously fuel, water and a serviced engine/battery. Cars (unfortunately!) don’t run on thin air, and neither do we as humans. We need sleep (serviced engine/battery), hydration (water) and food (fuel).
Make sure and get plenty of rest not only the nights of exams but on the run up to exam week too. I’m talking 7-8 hours of good sleep. They say 5 minutes of sleep before 12am is worth an hour of sleep after 12am so try and get to bed early(ish) and get up early(ish). If you’re feeling tired throughout the day why not take a nap? The perfect nap lasts 20 – 60 minutes and can increase productivity levels and cognitive function.
Remember to get a good night’s sleep the night before an exam. I know how tempting it is to stay up all night and cram but trust me, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. You wouldn’t go to a Music Festival with your phone battery on 25% would you? No, so why wouldn’t you charge your brain the night before an exam.
Staying hydrated is crucial in all aspects of life (we literally need it to stay alive) so make sure and up the water intake during the busy study and exam season. Your body is working overtime and needs all the nourishment it can get. Try not to over do it on the caffeine (coffee, RedBull etc.) and stick to water as much as possible.
Similar to the above point, you need to keep energy levels up at peak level during this busy time and that means eating and eating well. Sugar can be an effective short – term energy solution but there are far better alternatives like fruit, fish, nuts, carbs like rice and sweet potato. You don’t need to change your whole diet but just make sure you’re eating regularly and the right foods and snacks.
Many people stop playing sports and engaging in physical after school activities on the run up to exams. However exercise (of anykind) is such a beneficial factor to include in your exam preparation. You don’t need to run a marathon or climb a mountain but even a short walk to take in some fresh air can reap benefits to those who get out there. Exercise is great for boosting energy, improving your mood and helping brain health and memory. Besides, it is typical that “Leaving Cert Weather” will be forecasted during this time so its an excuse to get out in the sun.
Ask for Help
If you’re really feeling the pressure of exams getting on top of you, you’re never alone. Chat with family and friends and maybe even a teacher for some last minute motivation and reassurance. Maybe its the case you need a last minute grind in a particular subject to help you focus and revise. Whatever the case may be, help is always available so don’t be afraid to ask for it if you need it.
*Whitney Career Guidance have a list of tutors/grinds providers available if you need help in a particular subject*
Highlighters? Check! Calculator? Check! Pens? Uhhh…. Prepare what you need to take into the exam the night before. You want to be able to walk into the exam hall confident that you have everything you need. Make a list of the things you need for each exam to ensure you don’t forget ANYTHING. There’s nothing worse than sitting an exam, looking around to find everybody is using a calculator and you don’t have one – panic! You never know when you’ll need to just 100% check that 5 x 2 is definitely 10, only a calculator can give you that kind of reassurance.
How can you help as a parent/guardian? It’s so important that students have a strong support network during this stressful time. Play your part by engaging and encouraging the above in a gentle, non intrusive manner. In other words, don’t pile on the pressure. If you feel like your young adult is still confused or unsure about career choices, contact Whitney Career Guidance.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog which focusses on success ‘during and after exams. Available on Friday 31st May.