Exams exams and more exams… they are approaching, they can be scary and they need organisation.
I used to revise for exams by rewriting stuff, I literally would copy what I had written in my class notes into a new notebook then add colour.
This worked with varying success and when I look back my own success in school came down to my relative consistency throughout the year.
Now I am a teacher, a tutor and run an agency that focuses on education.
I have studied closely and seen major changes in students by effective study techniques. I mean, the techniques where the student actually fully understands, has a full concept and understanding of that particular topic or idea just from the way they studied it.
Today for example, I had a student who read something and didn’t understand it. I read it back to her with understanding and it clicked for her. She got it because I had it and I was communicating it to her in a way that made her get it too (mainly loudly with lots of intonation and various stresses on the words).
I’m not suggesting that a tutor should come and just read stuff outloud but I am suggesting these three study tips that I have personally experienced again and again to be successful.
- DON’T CHEAT YOURSELF — Rewriting some words is not knowing it, remembering something like a parrot is not understanding it. Get real — do I really understand this topic? Am I just going to go past it in the hope I remember some bits? If the answer is yes, to this last question GO BACK to the earliest topic in what you are studying and first clear up all the terms and words associated with that topic. By clear up I mean get a simple dictionary (best study tool ever!) and look up the words connected with that topic. Make up sentences with them and get them understood.
- Reread the topic and draw it out, sketch it, make it somehow come to life. If it is a very technical subject such as physics or maths or an essay type subject such as English get lots of examples and work through them all
- If it is not becoming clear go further back and go from there. Syllabuses (or syllabi) are created in a way that means that one topic will lead gradiently onto the next. So once you have that step understood it will usually provide the foundation for the next harder step. This even applies in English, understand Grammar really well and you have the foundation of the language, once you have the foundation in you can then start to manipulate it into more and more forms!
Revising is like building a perfectly formed wall or if not girlie enough applying that liquid eyeliner on both eyes to perfection.
Each topic or concept is a brick (or stroke) that needs to be laid perfectly and with care. Perfectly means fully understood, vividly understood before moving onto the next brick. This doesn’t have to take a lifetime but be honest with yourself and be thorough!
Before I leave I just want to share one more story. I studied Spanish and Business at Edinburgh university and for my last three months of my 4 year course I worked my… reeeeeelly hard.
I went to the library when it opened and left when it closed. I began to create study groups, I did exercise with my friend Charlotte in the local green, if it rained we found an empty room not to get fit (we were mostly stretching) but to refresh ourselves for more study.
Basically, for the first time in my whole 4 year course I really took the time to understand what it was I was learning about and it became interesting. Up to that point, apart from being immersed with a lot of uni fun I usually felt I was being rushed through many of the topics and wasn’t interested enough to receive them.
But during these 3 months, I finally UNDERSTOOD and ENJOYED the story about the thief who moved from city to city (El Buscon, Spanish classic) business ideas and concepts were REAL (I found out that one of my friends was Lyle out of Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup during that time — HOW COOL IS THAT!). I understood what the university experience is really meant to be about and those last 3 months have stayed with me ever since.
There is now around 3 months left till your summer exams, my advice is to immerse yourself fully, make all your choices and actions based around what is going to put you in the best possible position for your exams, be with friends that are on the same page even if you don’t know them as well as other friends and let us know what happens!!
Do you want my best 3 tips for exam success? Go check out this short video >>